Saturday, December 25, 2010

Microsoft Security Essentials v2

Without much fanfare, Microsoft has released version 2 of its Security Essentials antivirus and antispyware program.  This was not an automatic update.  I read about it in the Urban Commandos forum on and downloaded the installer manually.

I’ve been running MSE on a number of machines now for over a year and it’s been both trouble free and better performing than my previous choice in free AV software, AVG.

If I notice anything weird I’ll make a note of it.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Strange VMware vSphere 4.1 Issue

I ran into a weird issue over the past couple of days while trying to deploy a couple of CentOS 5.5 virtual machines onto my vSphere 4.1 server.

I created a VM to serve as my template for future VMs, then exported it as an OVF template to my laptop.  (I do not yet have a vCenter management server, so I'm stuck running the vSphere Client inside an XP VM running in VirtualBox on my MacBook Pro).  Probably due to our network, the export took a couple of hours.

I then deployed two VMs from the OVF file.  Import went much more quickly than the export, thankfully.  When I ran the "system-config-network" tool to configure the IP address, subnet mask, gateway, hostname, and DNS settings, I noticed there was a duplicate of eth0.  The dupe wasn't present in my original VM.  If the dupe was not removed, running /sbin/ifconfig displayed that eth0 had all the correct info, but the machine could not reach the network.

Through trial and error, I discovered a workaround.  Upon running system-config-network, if a duplicate eth0 is present, select it.  Then blank out all values, save and quit.  Next, reboot the VM and once again run system-config-network, and configure eth0.  After doing all this networking worked properly and I was able to SSH into the VM from my laptop.

Once we get a vCenter Server I shouldn't have jump through these hoops.  vCenter includes the ability to clone a VM without doing an export and import, so setting up new VMs should be much simpler and faster.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Wet Day at the Range

Today the weather was rainy and in the 50s but I didn’t let that stop me from getting out to the range.  The firing lines at my club are covered and surrounded by walls on three sides, so they are great for shooting in inclement weather.

I took the Century Arms C93 HK-93 clone along with my Century VZ-2008, a VZ-58 clone.

I put 240 rounds through the C93, 80 being Prvi Partizan M-193 5.56mm Ball with the remainder being Wolf .223 55 grain JHPs.  The best thing I can say about the Wolf is that it was cheap.  Compared with Prvi Partizan, Winchester, or Federal ammunition it’s rather dirty, downloaded, and inaccurate.  Plus, it smells bad when you shoot it.  However, my Colt AR-15s, Ruger Mini-14, 5.56mm AKs, and the C93 all seem to function fine with it.

After my first outing last weekend with the C93 I’d cleaned the bore and the inside of the receiver, but not field stripped the bolt carrier group.  I just saturated it in RemOil, wiped off most of the goop, relubed with automatic transmission fluid*, and reassembled the gun.  So, when I took it down for a full cleaning today, after having put 400 +/- rounds through the gun, it was filthy.  It may have been dirty but it ran just fine and showed no signs of sluggishness.  I suspect it could have gone many hundred more rounds without a cleaning as long as it was lubed.

So far, the C93 has 400 to 420 rounds through it with no malfunctions.  I measured the bolt gap before my first range trip at 0.010”.  After a good cleaning tonight, I measured it again and it hasn’t shrunk.

My first Century C93 was a lemon but this one is a keeper.  Unfortunately for my wallet, I’m liking the taste of HK Kool Aid and have been eyeballing the PTR91, Inc. “GI” model, which is a G3 clone.  The first time I ever shot an HK was an HK-91 in .308 over 20 years ago, and I was wowed by the mild recoil.  Several years ago I owned a Century C91 G3 clone but wound up trading it off, even though it seemed to run fine with the 100 or so rounds I fired through it.  Probably should’ve kept that one.

Anyway, a couple of months ago I installed a muzzle brake on my VZ-2008.  The brake was from CNC Warrior and is a replica of the Czech military issue brake.  It’s very effective at reducing muzzle flip and recoil, at the expense of significantly increased muzzle blast (which is typical of muzzle brakes).  The blast is even more noticeable when you shoot the rifle from under overhead cover.  Good ear protection is mandatory.

Because the brake reduces muzzle flip, which starts while the bullet is still in the barrel, I found that the point of impact was lowered by about a foot at 100 yards after I installed it.  So, today my goal was to get a 25 yard zero, then fine tune it at 100 yards.  I wound up only shooting on the 25 yard range.  With the rain I didn’t feel like loading and unloading my truck to move over to the 100 yard line.

I shot 80 rounds of Brown Bear 7.62x39 123 grain FMJ through the VZ-2008 today.  The rifle required a break-in period of about 200 rounds, along with some manual polishing of contact points inside the action after my first range trip with the rifle.  The phosphate finish was so thick inside the action that it caused failures to extract and eject due to short stroking.  This may be uncommon, as I’ve read other VZ-2008 reviews online and I’m the only person who seems to have reported it.

Including today, my past two or three trips to the range with the VZ-2008 have been malfunction-free.  The VZ-2008 and I got off on the wrong foot but we’ve made up. Smile  I now consider it a tested, reliable rifle after about 400 trouble free rounds.

There are two things I’m not thrilled with on the VZ-2008, however.  First is the folding stock.  It’s an original Czech stock and while it’s very sturdy and allows for storage in compact areas, it isn’t real comfortable.  I’m toying with the idea of installing a fixed stock.  Another option would be to install an Ace folder like I have on my Arsenal SLR-101SG.  The Ace stocks are as comfortable as a fixed unit but still allow storage in small areas.

Second is the design that Century chose for the selector.  It rotates backwards from what would be ergonomic.  I.e., rotate it down to put the rifle on safe, rotate it up to fire.  AIUI, Czech-made semiauto VZ-58s like those from Czechpoint USA have selectors which work the opposite way.  I may be able to fit a Czechpoint selector to my rifle (a member of Arfcom reported doing so with his VZ-2008), which would be a big improvement.

A VZ-58 clone a good choice for someone who wants a semiauto rifle generally similar to an AK but wants something a little different.  It’s also a good choice for folks stuck in jurisdictions which prohibit AKs.  I understand that VZ-58s are popular up in Canada (with the magazines blocked to 5 or 10 rounds).  Also, Connecticut bans Kalashnikovs in 7.62x39 (but not 5.45 or 5.56), but does not ban VZ-58s or clones.

Incidentally, I’ve found that Bulgarian surplus 4 cell pouches for 30 round AK magazines work perfectly for VZ-58 mags.  They also work for HK-93/HK-33/C93 40 round mags, but you have to cut a new hole in the tab which secures the top flap.


* I’ve been using ATF as a gun oil for about 16 years.  It’s cheap, a quart last forever, and works really well.  ATF is a decent cleaner for carbon fouling, too.  Just don’t get it on your clothes because it stains.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Obamessiah Has Left the Building

In an administration chock full of "WTF?" moments, this takes the cake:

Here we have a sitting president in the midst of dealing with a tremendously important piece of legislation, the passage of which will have a significant impact on an economy circling the drain, and he can't even finish a press conference because he's kept FLOTUS waiting on a Christmas party.  And he hands things over to a previous president?

Holy. Fucking. Shit.  This is by far the least presidential thing I have ever seen.

In his prior jobs as a state and US senator, Obama had the bad habit of voting "present."  Now he's not even doing that.  Hell, Stevie Wonder can see that this ship doesn't have a captain now.

And don't think for  a moment that our foes around the world haven't noticed.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Good Day at the Range

Today I took my Century C93 (HK-93 clone) and my SAR-1 AK to the range for function testing and zeroing.

The C93 is a replacement for one I bought about a month ago which would not cycle when I shot it. I got the replacement rifle this past Wednesday. Today I ran around 160 - 180 rounds of Prvi Partizan M-193 Ball through it with no malfunctions, and zeroing it at 25 yards required only minor sight adjustments (elevation only, windage was spot on). This was quite a refreshing difference from the rifle I first bought. I'm very happy with this one.

After I received the rifle on Wednesday I measured the bolt gap with a feeler gauge.  It came in at 0.010”, which is within spec but on the low side.  After shooting it today I measured it again and so far it’s unchanged.  I already have a set of +4 rollers on order from Robert RTG, along with an HK sling and a couple of other small spare parts.

While I was annoyed at Century for them having shipped a non-functional rifle, they did make it right, and fairly painlessly.  Someday down the road I wouldn’t mind getting a Vector Arms V93, which is an HK-93 clone with a reputation for quality.  However, for now the C93 looks like it’ll be a good shooter, and at about half the cost of the Vector.

I've had the SAR-1 for a few years but recently installed an Ultimak with a Bushnell TRS-25 red dot sight on it. Since the Ultimak replaces the gas tube I wanted to verify that it still functioned OK, and make any necessary adjustments to the iron sight zero. As expected, the rifle functioned flawlessly through 90 rounds of Wolf Military Classic fed from 3 Finnish surplus Valmet mags. It turned out to still shoot to POA at 25 yards with irons. I was doubly pleased to find that I didn't need to make any adjustments on the Bushnell, either.

I'll verify zero at 100 yards with both rifles but they should be GTG.

An extra bonus was that with the temps in the mid-30s, I had the 25 yard range to myself.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Hanukkah 2010

I took today off so as to not lose an unused vacation day by the end of the year.  I just finished peeling and cutting up a bag of potatoes that my wife will turn into latkes tonight, since it’ll be the first night of Hanukkah.

In brief, Hanukkah commemorates the victory of the Jewish rebellion lead by Judah Maccabee over the Seleucids who had officially repressed the Jewish faith and desecrated the Second Temple in Jerusalem. 

Back in 2004 I put up a Hanukkah post bemoaning the choice of many of my co-religionists to support gun control.  The Shoah (Holocaust) was a mere 65 years ago, within living memory of many, and still, many, perhaps most Jewish Americans still fear and loathe guns and would see civilian controlled or banned.  For a people who values learning so much, we can be damn stubborn.

Thankfully, the past couple of years have seen two major victories for Americans who value their right to keep and bear arms, as a safeguard against criminals and rogue governments.

In the 2008 case District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment does indeed protect an individual right to keep and bear arms, independent of membership in the militia.  In 2010, SCOTUS extended the RKBA by applying it to the states with its ruling in McDonald v. Chicago.  As with earlier decisions which extended the protections in the Bill of Rights to the states, the full extent of the protection the RKBA will be afforded will only be seen after more protracted litigation.  But Heller and McDonald were major steps in preserving our liberty.

As Jews, we should be especially thankful for the right to keep and bear arms.  Since the Romans sacked Jerusalem and forced the Diaspora, Jews’ ability to defend themselves against violence has been curtailed as a matter of official policy.  In contrast, Jews in most of the United States can take up arms to defend themselves and their faith.

While the likelihood of official repression of Jews in the United States is remote, we cannot be complacent and adopt the “it can’t happen here” mentality.  Not in the age of resurgent Islamic fundamentalism, lax border controls, and jet air travel.

Since 1972, over 300 Americans have been killed by Muslim terrorists, not including the over 2700 who died on 9/11.  Many of them were targeted because they were Jews.

Unfortunately, the leaders of both major parties have been skittish of calling a spade a spade, with President Bush’s description of Islam as a “Religion of Peace” being the most notorious example.

Perhaps even worse is the current administration’s pro-Islam stance.  Beginning with Obama’s duplicitous 2009 speech to the Muslim world in Cairo and continuing with a policy toward Israel which can be described at best as ambivalent, but more accurately as pro-Palestinian, Jews should be wary of Washington’s stance towards them.  We should not be fooled by his close association with kapos like Rahm Emanuel, David Axelrod, or the worst of all, George Soros.

Overseas, we’ve seen a resurgence in anti-semitism in Europe, while Arab children continue to be fed a diet of anti-semitic propaganda in the form of entertainment.  See this for example.  And need I mention the Iranian quest for nuclear arms, promoted by Holocaust-denier Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, against which the West seems ready to do nothing?

Instead of taking serious steps, the current administration engages in security theater, the most obvious example lately being the TSA’s “porno scanners” at airports.

Worldwide, the situation for Jews is probably more perilous now than any time since 1945.

So what should we as Jewish Americans do?

First, stop supporting politicians who support gun control.  Not only is gun control counter-productive in reducing violent crime, supporting it foments anti-semitism when you have people with names like Bloomberg and Schumer backing it.  Being armed may not save you from a nut who’s turned a 747 into a human-guided cruise missile, but a pistol can give you a fighting chance against terrorists in a Mumbai-style attack.

Second, stop supporting politicians who refuse to call Islamic extremism and terrorism by their proper names.  Stop supporting politicians who think American vets returning from Iraq are more of a terrorist threat than Muslim radicals.

Third, stop fearing the “religious right,” in which the mainstream media has included pretty much anybody who regularly attends church.  Guess what?  Observant Christians are some of the best allies that Jews have today in the US.  While we may disagree on theology, many of them accept Jews as G-d’s Chosen People and are staunch supporters of the State of Israel.  Indeed, many Christians are more supportive of Israel than a lot of JINOs (Jews In Name Only).

Fourth, take the coverage by the mainstream media of the Tea Party movement with several helpings of salt.  You may hear some Tea Partiers talk about social issues, but the bedrock of the movement is about getting the government out of your life.  Historically, governments have been the Jewish People’s worst enemies, whether the government in question was lead by a Pharoah, Seleucid king, Roman Caesar, a Caliph, a Pope, a Tsar, a Furhrer, or Politburo.

Finally, exercise your right to keep and bear arms.  In Biblical times, the Jews were an ass-kicking people.  More recently, Israel has repeatedly stunned the world with its feats of arms.  In contrast, most Jewish Americans have adopted a pro-government victim mentality.  It is past time that this passive attitude be discarded.  “Turn the other cheek” is not a concept consistent with Jewish theology.  In the Talmud, we are instructed that, "if someone comes to kill you, get up early in the morning to kill him first." (Berakhot 58a; Yoma 85b; Sanhedrin 72a).  Judaism does not require you to submit to an assailant.  Indeed, precisely the opposite is true.

Happy Hanukkah and may you dreidel always land on gimel.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


"If all Americans want is security, they can go to prison.  They'll have enough to eat, a bed and a roof over their heads. But if an American wants to preserve his dignity and his equality as a human being, he must not bow his neck to any dictatorial government."

- Dwight D. Eisenhower , Dec.9, 1949

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Several Updates at The Shooters' Bar

This morning I made several updates to The Shooters' Bar, my list of pro gun rights attorneys.  If you need an attorney practicing in any area of the law take a look, it's not just a list of "firearms lawyers."

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Saturday Night Range Report

Dad and I went to the range tonight.  I brought my 3" Ruger SP-101 (model KSP-331X) and my Browning Hi Power Practical.  Dad brought along new Rock Island Armory M1911 made by Armscor in the Phillipines.

I put about 60 rounds through the Ruger.  It shoots nicely.  Easier to pack than a K-Frame but a whole lot more pleasant to shoot than a J-Frame, especially with .38 +Ps.  (The indoor range at Dad's club prohibits magnums, and I can't see myself shooting many .357s in a 27 oz. gun anyway.)

The .38s I shot in the Ruger consisted of 50 rounds of Winchester 148 grain wadcutters, 5 Winchester 158 grain LSWCHP +Ps, and 5 Double Tap 158 grain hard cast LSWC +Ps.  Compared with my S&W Model 640, the Ruger is much easier to control with full power .38s, due to the weight and the excellent Ruger rubber grip.

Before tonight I hadn't tried Brown Bear ammo in my BHP.  Unlike most American made ammo, Brown Bear has a steel case with a lacquer coating to prevent rust.  Some guns have functioning problems with steel cased ammunition, so I recommend testing any semiauto firearm with at least 100 rounds of steel cased ammo before purchasing a large quantity.

My Springfield XD9 has gone through several hundred rounds without any issues.  Since it's relatively cheap I was hoping the BHP would also function well with it.  I was not disappointed.  I put 100 rounds of the Brown Bear through the gun using 3 different Mec Gar mags, and 3 KRD (Argentine) mags.  I also shot 50 rounds of Blazer Brass.  As expected, I had zero malfunctions.

I picked up the KRD magazines several years ago, before the ban on new "high capacity" magazines sunset in 2004.  At the time they were about the only >10 round BHP mags available for less than an arm and a leg.  Compared with Mec Gars they are a bit rough, and one in particular seems vulnerable to follower tilt.  I plan on seeing if I can smooth them up a bit but until then, they are range mags only.  Note that Mec Gar is the OEM for Browning Hi Power magazines.  However, Mec Gar branded mags are available for slightly less than half the cost of Browning branded magazines.  I'll be getting some more Mec Gar 15 rounders.

Compared with the Blazer Brass ammo, the Brown Bear was dirty and smelled bad.  However, it cleaned up easily with some Hoppe's No.9 and I can tolerate the stink.  AIM Surplus currently has it in stock at $8.25 per box of 50 when ordered 10 or more boxes.  I regard it as a good deal if you don't reload 9mm.

Dad put 71 rounds through the RIA M1911.  He had 3 malfs, all of which could be cleared with a "tap, rack, bang."  The owner's manual notes that the gun has a 500 round break-in period.  He thinks that 2 of the malfs were probably due to the magazine which came with the gun.  He also used a couple 7 round Wolff mags which have run perfectly in his Colt M1911A1.  (The Wolff magazines are really good, and even have a dimpled follower.  Highly recommended.)

I didn't put any rounds through the M1911 but I did dry fire it a few times.  I'd guestimate the trigger pull at around 5 or 6 pounds and pretty crisp.  Quite suitable for a self defense pistol, IMO.

My impression of the RIA 1911 is that it's a pretty good gun for the money.  He paid $400 OTD for it.  Fit and finish are suitable for a service grade gun.  The metal is parkerized.  The grips are plain, uncheckered wood but the finish is well done.  Overall, it looks almost identical to a USGI 1911A1 except that it has a lowered and flared ejection port, and the magazine well is slightly beveled.

If the RIA was my gun, I'd replace the sights with ones easier to see, install an ambidextrous safety, use either Chip McCormick, Wolff, or Wilson mags, and maybe replace the grips with some nicer looking wood. Other than that the RIA M1911 seems like a very good self defense pistol right out of the box.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veteran's Day

To all veterans who have served to defend our freedom:

Thank you.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

This Year’s Jack O’Lanterns

Yesterday the girls and I made Jack O’Lanterns.  I had them draw out on a sheet of paper how they wanted theirs to look.  Alexandra wanted “funny” while Amanda wanted “scary.”

They came out pretty good, if I do say so myself.


Alexandra’s is on the left, Amanda’s is on the right.

VMware Training and a New PC

Last week I attended a five day course on installing, configuring, and maintaining VMware vSphere 4.1.  My employer purchased an "all you can eat" license earlier this year, and I've been asked to implement it on one of our networks.  Since I have no prior experience with vSphere I asked my boss for training.  It turns out that we had some training credits which expire at the end of 2010, so I was able to register for this couse at no cost to my department.

I am very impressed with vSphere, as well as VMware's vSphere Client management program.  I find it well designed with a very good user interface.  It runs on Windows only, unfortunately.  I wish they had an OS X client.  At work I have a Windows 7 VM inside Paralles Desktop on my MacBook Pro which I can use.  I also recently setup a four year old Dell Precision Workstation 470n which I scrounged.  It's running Windows 7 x64 with 4 GBs of RAM so it runs much more smoothly than the VM on my laptop.

As a side note, the VMs I have running inside of Parallels Desktop have gotten a lot slower recently, especially the Windows 7 VM.  I am thinking of dumping PD and installing VirtualBox.

Because vSphere is basically a means to run other OSes as applications on a host I decided I wanted to have a way to refamiliarize myself with any number of OSes on a system at home.  To that end, yesterday I did something I haven't done in 12 years: I bought a new desktop PC running Windows.

For the past 10 years or so I've built my own machines.  I have two tower cases which are well designed and which have been used in several incarnations of motherboards, CPUs, and operating systems.  However, I just didn't feel like putting together a new PC, especially since I can now buy a very powerful system for under a grand.

So, yesterday I did some searching on Microcenter's website and purchased a PowerSpec B707 mini-tower system for $699 plus tax.  The basic specs are:

1. Intel Core i5 - 655K 3.2 GHz dual core CPU
2. Intel DH55TC motherboard with integrated video (VGA and DVI), sound, Gigabit LAN.
3. Samsung 1 TB hard disk
4. 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi (which I have disabled since I have an Ethernet connection)
5. DVD+/-RW drive
6. Media card reader
7. 300W power supply
8. Windows 7 Professional 64 bit
9. 4 GB of DDR3 RAM (expandalbe to 16 GB)

Because I bought the system with the idea of running other OSes inside VMs I wanted to increase the RAM.  I found an OCZ 4 GB kit (2 x 2 GB DIMMs) at Microcenter for $69.99 less a $20 mail-in rebate, so added that to the cart.

Microcenter allows you to place an order on their website and arrange for in-store pickup in 18 minutes, if they have the items in stock at your local store.  I did that and was in and out in about 10 minutes.

The PC came with a cheap Inland USB keyboard which I'm using currently but will probably replace due to the mushy feel.  It also came with an Inland mouse which I left in the packaging, in favor of the Logitech mouse I already had.  The machine didn't come with a monitor which was fine, I'm using an Acer AL2016W 20" widescreen LCD display that I bought last year.  I'm using the DVI port and it looks good.

The PowerSpec box came with no crapware installed which was a pleasant surpise.  It did include a trial version of ESET NOD32 antivirus which I removed in favor of MS Security Essentials, and also an installer for MS Office 2010 Starter Edition (lobotomized versions of Word and Excel supported by ads).

The machine is quite zippy for my uses: web browsing, light office use, as an SSH client, and to run VMs inside VirtualBox.  I haven't really pounded on the box yet but so far the CPU usage is minimal most of the time and I'm only using about half the 8 GB RAM that's installed in the system.

So far I've created VMs running Ubuntu 10.10 and Windows XP Pro SP3.  I unfortunately need the XP VM to run a VPN client which doesn't work in Windows 7; I hope to lose that particular need in the next few months.  My next VM will probably be Windows 2008 Server R2.

Another use of this box will be for me to evaluate various remote control applications.  I have GoToMyPC, LogMein, and TeamViewer in mind.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Microsoft Office for Mac 2011

Sunday night my work email account got migrated from an Exchange 2003 server to a bright, shiny, new Exchange 2010 box.  One downside to this is that WebDAVS access is no longer supported, so Monday morning I had to upgrade Entourage 2008 to Entourage 2008 Web Services Edition.  This went pretty smoothly.

In general I've been pretty pleased with Office 2008.  I'm a light user of Word and Excel, and a very light user of PowerPoint (i.e., I only open up PPT when I can't avoid it).  My primary app in Office was Entourage for my email and calendar.  With WebDAVS enabled I was able to securely check my email without having to use our VPN.  Compared with Outlook on Windows, Entourage's support for shared calendaring is somewhat lacking.  Also, I was unable to search our Global Address Book without either being on the corporate network or being VPNed in.

Monday afternoon in the day I got access to Office 2011 and installed it on my MacBook Pro.  The biggest change between 2008 and 2011 is that Entourage has been replaced by Outlook, an application missing from the Mac since Office 2001, IIRC.

Back before I moved to a Mac for my primary platform, I loathed Outlook on Windows.   In prior positions I've supported Outlook 97, 98, and 2000.  I've used those versions as well as 2002 (AKA Outlook XP).  For me it was always a slow, buggy app with an interface I didn't particularly like.

But so far Outlook 2011 is mostly working well.  We've noticed one bug when trying to schedule meetings when a participant is still on the Exchange 2003 server.  Specifically, the times shown on that person's calendar will be off by an hour.  Until everyone is migrated I'll just use Outlook Web Mail for scheduling meetings.

One thing I thought was interesting was that Office 2011 installed alongside 2008.  This is a very good feature, allowing easy rollback.  The Office for Mac team also did a good job with the migration features for Entourage to Outlook.  Outlook imported my Entourage profile seamlessly, including the server configuration and account info.  It took about 10 minutes to import my profile and setup connectivity to the server.

Outlook allows me to search our Global Address List remotely even if I'm not VPNed in.  This will be nice.

Another feature greatly anticipated by many people wanting to switch from Windows but stuck because they rely on Outlook was the lack of an easy way to migrate emails from Outlook .PST files.  Well, Outlook 2011 can read .PSTs, though it stores messages, contacts, etc. in a different format.  This will be useful for a few of my coworkers.

As for the interface, either the Outlook Mac interface is greatly improved cf. the last version I used on Windows, or my reaction to it has mellowed.  It's actually pretty decent.  Likewise, the rest of the Office apps share the "ribbon" interface introduced with Office 2007.  A lot of folks hated the ribbon but I actually like it.  So far I haven't used either Excel or Word very much so I don't know how they'll compare with the 2008 versions.

I'll post follow ups if I run into any weirdness.

Firefox 4 Beta 6

Today I installed Firefox 4 Beta 6 on my MacBook Pro and a Dell Precision Workstation running Windows 7 Enterprise.

My initial impressions are favorable.  The user interface has been revised and is now somewhat Google Chromeish.  The default toolbars are minimalist and tabs are displayed on top the address bar, rather than below it.  I prefer having the tabs below the address bar so I'm happy to see that it remains an option.

Compared with Firefox 3.6, FF4B6 seems to load pages faster on both OS 10.6 and Win7.  This may in part be due to some of my extensions not being supported in FF4 yet.  However, FF4 is supposed to offer speed improvements.

I used FF4B6 for most of the day and didn't run into any noticeable issues.  We'll see how it goes with more use but so far I'm pleased with it.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Dropbox on Android Phones

A few months ago I mentioned that I started using Dropbox for backing up some of my critical files, and syncronizing them between my MacBook Pro and my MSI Wind netbook.  I recently installed the Dropbox application on my Droid and was impressed with it this morning.

Using my Droid, I took a picture of a screen to record a firmware revision.  I figured that I would then email it to myself.  Instead, when I went into the Droid's picture gallery and selected the "Share" menu, not only was I given the opportunity to send it via email, MMS, Facebook, Twitter or Picasa, but to add it to my Dropbox.  I chose Dropbox and by the time I was back at my desk, the photo was in my Mac's Dropbox folder.  Compared with email or MMS, this eliminates the steps of addressing and sending an email.  And it's certainly more convenient than digging out a USB cable to connect the phone to my computer.

A basic 2 GB account is free but if you refer someone you'll get an extra 250 MB of space, up to 8 GB total.  You can also get a free 250 MB by 5 of the 6 tasks listed in the "Getting Started" tab viewable when you login to your Dropbox account on the web.

{Blantant self promotion.}If you're interested in this sort of product and want to try Dropbox, please click on my referral link, here.  I could use a little more space.{/Blatant self promotion.}

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Monster Hunter Vendetta

The mailman just brought my copy of Larry Correia's latest release, Monster Hunter Vendetta, the follow up to his debut novel Monster Hunter International.  I'm expecting MHV to kick as much ass as MHI.

Now, off to the back porch with some port, a cigar and MHV.  Any productivity for the rest of this afternoon is highly unlikely.

Update 10/13/10:

Monster Hunter Vendetta rocks.  I liked it even better than MHI.  Great villain, some extremely funny comic relief, and it sets up future books in the series.  If you like guns and monsters, buy it now.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Range Day

We had a beautiful Fall day here in SE Pennsylvania today, and I got to spend it at the range.

I brought three rifles with me: an Arsenal SA M5 AK, Century Arms VZ-2008 Sporter (VZ-58 clone), and a Century Arms C93 Sporter (HK-93 clone).

I've had the SA M5 for several years.  It is an AK with a milled receiver, made in Bulgaria, and chambered for 5.56x45mm.  I needed to zero the rifle, since I had recently reinstalled the original rear sight in place of a Mojo peep rear sight.  I also wanted to test out two new 30 round magazines and a CNC Warrior flash hider.

As expected the rifle shot well although I did have one misfeed with an older 20 round mag.  The new 30 rounders worked fine, as did the flash hider.  The rifle originally came with a muzzle brake, which I'd replaced for awhile with a Bulgarian 24mm flash hider mounted via a 14mm to 24mm adapter.  That added too much weight to the muzzle, so I replaced it with the CNC Warrior Norinco Type 84-style flash hider.

The ammo I shot in the Arsenal was Prvi Partizan (PPU) 55 grain M193 Ball.  In my experience, PPU makes quality ammo.  I was able to keep my 100 yard groups about the size of the bull on an SR-1 target.  The rifle should be able to do better but for me the open sights with a short sight radius is the limiting factor.  However, one of these days I'll have to try some ammo with heavier bullets, since the rifle has a 1:7" twist, which should shoot well with bullets up to 77 grains.

I bought the VZ-2008 a couple years ago.  It's based on the Czech VZ-58 assault rifle but of course semiauto-only.  My initial experience with the VZ-2008 was problematic.  The receiver is parkerized and the finish was bit thick, so much that the first time I had it out to the range I had to "mortar" the rifle open after about half the shots.  Since then, I've smoothed out the rifle's innards by polishing them with Flitz and putting a few hundred rounds through the gun.  When I last shot it a couple months ago it ran fine.

Today I put 60 rounds -- two full magazines -- through the VZ-2008 and had no malfs.  The last time I shot the VZ, the stock was really whacking my cheek, so I decided to see if installing a muzzle brake would help.  CNC Warrior makes a copy of the Czech military brake, so I ordered one last month.

The new brake definitely lessens recoil and muzzle flip.  As expected, it greatly increases muzzle blast.  Overall though, I find the rifle more pleasant to shoot with the brake so it's staying on the gun.  It did affect the rifle's zero, dropping the 100 yard point of impact by about a foot.  I didn't really have time left at the range to futz with the sights, so rezeroing will wait until my next range trip with the rifle.

As with the Arsenal AK, my usable accuracy with the VZ-2008 is limited by the open rear sight and short sight radius.  I got about 6" groups at 100 yards.

The VZ-58 is a neat rifle, often mistaken for a Kalashnikov.  They look similar but the only thing the VZ shares with an AK-47 or AKM is the chambering, 7.62x39.  Nothing else is interchangeable, including the magazines, unfortunately.

The VZ has a milled receiver but weighs about as much as most stamped receiver AKs.

The AK uses a long stroke gas piston operation, while the VZ-58 has a short stroke design.  If anything, mechanically, the VZ-58 is closer to the WW2 German STG-44.

Most 7.62x39 AK magazines are made from steel, while the VZ-58 mags are aluminum.  The VZ-58 has a last round bolt hold open and a charger guide on the bolt carrier.  With the bolt locked back and a magazine in the rifle, you can load the mag using SKS stripper clips.  The AK has no last round bolt hold open.

Things did not go as well with the C93, my new HK-93 clone.

Before buying the C93 I'd read up on them on several online forums.  Reports were generally good.  However, I am finding that my rifle is short stroking with every shot.  This turns it into a heavy and awkward straight pull bolt action rifle.

After buying the C93 last week I field stripped and lubricated it, and measured the bolt gap, which was in spec.  I used the same PPU M193 Ball in the C93 as in my Arsenal AK.  I figured if the rifle's mechanism required a break in period it would do better with full 5.56 NATO spec ammo than .223 Remington spec loads, or worse, Wolf steel cased ammo, which is noticeably underloaded.

But even with the PPU M193, the C93 fails to eject empties.  When I manually extract and eject the cases, they looked OK -- no swelling, just the typical sooty striations typical of HK roller locked rifles.  All of the empties, except one, extracted easily.  One empty required a bit more force to extract.

I haven't had the chance to field strip the C93 since returning from the range.  When I do I plan to check for any spots where it appears internal parts might be binding.  I'll also make sure the chamber is clean and will try to see if there are any burs.

Hopefully I'll get to try the C93 again soon.  Next time, I will probably try some Lake City XM-193 Ball, just in case the rifle works better with it.

Functional issues aside, the C93 is extremely pleasant to shoot and seems to be accurate.  Compared with my Colt AR-15A2 Gov't. Carbine or even the Arsenal SA M5, the C93 is heavy.  Also, in my experience the HK roller locking system soaks up a lot of recoil.  To me, the C93 has even less felt recoil than an M1 Carbine.  If the C93 doesn't start functioning OK the next time I try it, I'll have to send it back to Century to get fixed.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Some Mac Consulting Today

This morning I went over to a client's home to do some work on his Macs.

He has an older Intel iMac which was still running OS 10.4 Tiger.  He was without a backup system for it, so the last time I was there I recommended he upgrade it to OS 10.6 Snow Leopard and getting a USB hard disk to setup as a Time Machine drive.

The first thing I did after arriving was to connect the Western Digital Elements 640 GB USB drive, copy over the Documents, Desktop, Pictures, and iTunes folders.  (It's a bad idea to upgrade an OS without first backing up all of your data.  Upgrades often go awry.)  Once everything copied over, which took about 40 minutes, I popped in the Snow Leopard disk and rebooted into the OS X installer.

After about 45 minutes the iMac was upgraded to OS 10.6.3, so I then ran Software Update and grabbed the 10.6.4 update, along with several other updates.  This took another 20 minutes or so.

With that squared away I reconnected the WD hard disk and configured Time Machine to use it as a backup disk.

While the iMac was getting backed up before the upgrade I took a look at his Mac Mini.

The Mini had been setup to do Time Machine backups to a Western Digital My Book external drive via FireWire 800.  It looks like the drive is toast, since when I was there a couple weeks ago I'd reformatted it.  Time Machine worked OK for about 4 days then started failing.  Today, it kept crashing the Finder when I connected it.  I even connected it to my MacBook Pro and reformatted it, but it still gave errors.  He's going to try to return it and get another USB or FireWire disk.

Finally, while there I also installed a hand-me-up 8 GB iPod Touch from his daughter to the Mini, and upgraded the firmware from 3.x to 4.1.

Not a bad way to spend a few hours and make some extra money.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The Restoring Honor Rally: A First Hand Account

Over at

I've known the author, Ken O'Donnell, online for a few years, as well as met him in person a couple of times.  He's good people.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Garmin nuvi GPS Recall

From Garmin:

Garmin is voluntarily recalling certain nüvi devices that contain a specific battery that was manufactured by the battery supplier within a limited date code range. Garmin has identified potential overheating issues when certain batteries manufactured by the third-party battery supplier within a limited date code range are used in certain Garmin nüvi models with a specific printed circuit board (PCB) design. It appears that the interaction of these factors can, in rare circumstances, increase the possibility of overheating, which may lead to a fire hazard. Although there have been no injuries or significant property damage caused by this issue, Garmin is taking this action out of an abundance of caution.
The recalled devices include a small subset of the following nüvi model numbers:

  • nüvi 200W, 250W, & 260W
  • nüvi 7xx (where xx is a two-digit number)
You can determine your nüvi model number by looking at the label on the back or bottom of your nüvi.

Go to Garmin's site and enter in your device's serial number.  It'll tell you if your unit needs to be sent in for service.

Sysadmin Tip: Walk Away

This morning I went down to my gun club to install a Linux box to serve as our new and improved email and web server.  Although I had performed several setup tasks after I built the box here at home, I left many of them until I had it onsite with the correct IP, hostname and domain configuration.

As I was working on it I did something which totally FUBARed Apache to the point where it wouldn't even start.  After pounding on it for about a half hour I got so fed up that it was pointless to continue, as I wasn't making any progress.

So, I walked away.  (Actually, I drove down to the 25 yard range and put some lead downrange.)

Once I got home I logged back into the server and within about ten minutes had Apache up and running.

Sometimes you need to just walk away for awhile.

The Great Humongous

Thank you

Thank you to those readers who have purchased stuff after clicking on a link to from this site. Every so often I get a gift certificate from them which helps on my own Amazon orders.

By no means am I making any significant amount of money from my Amazon affiliate links, but their gift certificates are a nice surprise when I do get them.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Standalone vs. Cell Phone Based GPS

A family trip this weekend reiterated for me why I do not think that cell phone based GPSes are viable 100% replacements for dedicated GPSes in your car.  At least, not yet.

We went up to Sullivan County, NY visit with some of my family.  The route we take to get there passes through NE PA, including the Delaware Water Gap.  My cousin, who's house we went to, lives in a rural area in which cell phone signal is spotty and often depends on how you orient your phone.

For navigation we had directions but also brought my Garmin Nuvi 200W, and both my wife and I have Android-based smartphones (a Droid and a Droid 2) with GPS integrated with Google Maps.  The Droids use the Verizon 3G data link to download maps on the fly.  In contrast, the Garmin stores maps locally.

We had no or poor cell phone signal, or no 3G for a good part of the drive.  Notably, the times when we had no signal were the times when the GPS was most needed.  I.e., rural back roads with poor signage and no street lighting.  If we had needed to depend on a phone-based GPS we'd have been out of luck.

There are a few applications designed to allow you to download and store maps offline in case you lose your cell phone signal, e.g., Maps (-).   However, this may not help you if you need to significantly deviate from your route, or if you need the GPS in an emergency and the cell network is down.

If your cell phone GPS usage is limited to areas with good cell coverage and don't consider your GPS unit as part of your emergency preps, then you don't need a standalone unit.  As for me, I'll be updating the maps in my Garmin soon.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Tyrannosaurus Debt

This morning I put in the Schoolhouse Rock DVD for the girls and they said that they wanted to watch the "Money Rock" category. I was stunned when this one came up:

Hopefully more kids get to see this.   I'd say that every member of our politcal class should watch it but they don't give a crap.

I think the Money Rock videos were made in the '90s.  They certainly weren't around in the '70s.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


Dropbox is a cloud-based file backup, storage, and sharing site which uses Amazon's S3 service as the backend.  I've recently started using it as a way to keep certain files and folders automatically synced between my MacBook Pro and Hobbit, my MSI netbook.

You can access a Dropbox account via a web browser or applications which install on Mac OS X, Windows, or Linux.  So far, I'm using the OS X and Ubuntu versions and they work very smoothly.  On a Mac you can access your Dropbox folder just like any other folder in the Finder.  On Ubuntu, I'm using the Nautilus file manager plugin.

If you allow the Dropbox app to run automatically when you login, it will automatically sync the local folder with the one in the cloud.  If you have Dropbox installed on more than one computer it will automatically sync the folder across all of them.

The free, basic Dropbox account gives you 2 GB of storage.  Additional storage is available for a monthly fee.  {shameless plug}Also, if you sign up by clicking the links in this post or in my sidebar to the right, I'll get an additional 250 MB of space (up to 8 GB), and you'll get additional space, too.{/shameless plug}

Friday, July 23, 2010

Patriot Xporter XT 16 GB USB Flash Drive

For the past couple of years I've had a Microcenter house brand 8 GB USB flash drive on my keychain. It's handy for keeping a backup of my most critical data with me at all times, as well as keeping installers for various Windows programs easily available.

I noticed over the weekend that the drive was starting to act a little flaky. A couple of times when I had it connected to my MacBook Pro when it dismounted itself. This might be a sign that it's dying.

I've wanted a USB drive with a bit more capacity and with faster read and write speeds, so this gave me an excuse to get something new. So, I ordered a Patriot Xporter XT Boost 16 GB USB 2.0 Flash Drive PEF16GUSB. It's $42.99 with free shipping from Amazon, and there's a $15 mail-in rebate if you order by 7/31/10. The final price will be about the same as what I paid for the 8 gig Microcenter drive a couple of years ago.

The drive is encased in a soft rubber outer shell with the cap made of the same material. The packaging claims that it's water resistant. We'll see how durable it is. I expect it to show some wear after awhile since I carry it around in my pocket.

Without taking any scientific measurements, it's obvious that the Patriot's read/write speeds are faster than my old 8 GB Microcenter drive or a Kingston 8 GB drive I have at work. After getting the Patriot I booted my MSI Wind into Ubuntu 10.04 Netbook Remix and used it to turn the Patriot into a bootable UNR install drive. I then booted the netbook off the Patriot and performance was a bit snappier than when I'd done so using the Kingston drive.

I didn't really want to keep the Patriot as an Ubuntu disk, so I rebooted the Wind into Windows 7 Home Ultimate and did a quick format. (I did this in Win7 because I wanted to ensure that the drive would remain readable in Windows. Since reformatting the aforementioned Kingston as FAT32 in OS X and Linux, I've had problems reading it in a couple Windows boxes.)

With the Patriot once again blank, I stuck it in my MacBook Pro and copied over the same stuff I keep on the Microcenter drive, plus the 4 GB TrueCrypt volume in which I keep my private data. The data transfer went smoothly, much faster than with the Microcenter drive.

My initial impression of the Patriot Xporter 16 GB USB drive is quite favorable. My one area of concern is the keyring loop molded into the rubber casing. I carry my USB stick on an A&P Mechanic's keyring from Countycomm, and I can see this wearing through the loop. To minimize wear, rather than attaching the Patriot directly to the keyring, I attached it with a cable tie.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Book Review: The Modern Survival Manual: Surviving the Economic Collapse

Over on Survival and Emergency Preparedness, I've posted a review of The Modern Survival Manual: Surviving the Economic Collapse.

Check it out.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

SAF Sues In New York To Void 'good Cause' Carry Permit Requirement

Press release from the Second Amendment Foundation:

For Immediate Release:   7/15/2010

BELLEVUE, WA – The Second Amendment Foundation has filed a federal lawsuit against Westchester County, New York and its handgun permit licensing officers, seeking a permanent injunction against enforcement of a state law that allows carry licenses to be denied because applicants cannot show “good cause.”

SAF is joined in the lawsuit by Alan Kachalsky and Christina Nikolov, both Westchester County residents whose permit applications were denied. Kachalsky’s denial was because he could not “demonstrate a need for self protection distinguishable from that of the general public.” Nikolov’s was denied because she could not demonstrate that there was “any type of threat to her own safety anywhere.” In addition to Westchester County, Susan Cacace and Jeffrey Cohen, both serving at times as handgun permit licensing officers, are named as defendants. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, White Plains Division.

Attorney Alan Gura is representing the plaintiffs, along with attorney Vincent Gelardi with Gelardi & Randazzo of Rye Brook, NY. Gura recently represented SAF and the Illinois State Rifle Association in their landmark Second Amendment Supreme Court victory over the City of Chicago.

Under New York Penal Code § 400.00, handgun carry permit applicants must “demonstrate good cause for the issuance of a permit,” the lawsuit alleges. This requirement violates the Second Amendment, according to the plaintiffs.

“American citizens like Alan Kachalsky and Christina Nikolov should not have to demonstrate good cause in order to exercise a constitutionally-protected civil right,” noted SAF Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb. “Our civil rights, including the right to keep and bear arms, should not be subject to the whims of a local government or its employees, just because they don’t think someone ‘needs’ a carry permit. Nobody advocates arming criminals or mental defectives, but honest citizens with clean records should not be denied out of hand.

“Thanks to our recent victory before the Supreme Court,” Gottlieb stated, “the Second Amendment now applies to state and local governments. Our lawsuit is a reminder to state and local bureaucrats that we have a Bill of Rights in this country, not a ‘Bill of Needs’.”

The case is filed as Kachalsky v. Cacase, U.S. Dist. Ct. S.D. N.Y. 10-05413

The Second Amendment Foundation ( is the nation's oldest and largest tax-exempt education, research, publishing and legal action group focusing on the Constitutional right and heritage to privately own and possess firearms. Founded in 1974, The Foundation has grown to more than 650,000 members and supporters and conducts many programs designed to better inform the public about the consequences of gun control. SAF has previously funded successful firearms-related suits against the cities of Los Angeles; New Haven, CT; and San Francisco on behalf of American gun owners, a lawsuit against the cities suing gun makers and an amicus brief and fund for the Emerson case holding the Second Amendment as an individual right.

Friday, July 09, 2010

iPod Hell

I spent a few hours over the past two nights in iPod Hell.

The other night, Judith decided she wanted to be able to run apps on her first-generation iPod Touch.  To do so she needed to upgrade the firmware since it was still on v1.x.  So, we hooked it up to her MacBook, went to the App Store in iTunes, and bought the v3.1.3 firmware upgrade for $4.95.

ITunes downloaded and installed the firmware but something went awry, and it bricked the iPod.  The iPod would apparently boot and was able to sync, but the display never reached the Home screen.  Also, it was unresponsive to pressing either the Home or power buttons.  I had Judith leave the iPod on overnight in the hopes that draining it, then connecting it to her Mac might allow it to boot.  No dice.

I then tried a factory reset and restore, with it connected to Judith's Mac.  Again, no difference.

Finally, I connected it to my Wind Netbook and did a factory reset and restore, which got me to the Home screen after it wiped and restored the v3.1.3 firmware.  Judith was then able to connect it to her Mac and resync all her music to it.  She was also able to download and install a bunch of free apps (games mostly) to the iPod.

Yesterday we let Amanda spend her birthday loot on her own 8 GB iPod Touch.  Aside from a game and music player, I'll rip some of her DVDs using Handbrake so she can bring it with her on long rides in the car instead of her POS portable DVD player.  I told J. to go ahead and connect it to her Mac but she wound up putting a bunch of her music on it, instead of Amanda's.  {sigh}  So, I factory reset it and will connect it to Amanda's MacBook Pro (my old machine) so that in the future playlists won't get mixed up.

What a PITA.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Press Release from GRNC on Bateman v. Perdue

Grass Roots North Carolina / Forum For Firearms Education

Post Office Box 10684, Raleigh, NC 27605

919.664.8565 / 919.562.4137 (Fax)

Contact: F. Paul Valone, President, Grass Roots North Carolina*

Telephone: 704.907.9206



* *

GRNC Joins Suit Against North Carolina Gun Ban

Lawsuit follows Supreme Court McDonald v. Chicago decision

RALEIGH, NC – Grass Roots North Carolina has joined Michael Bateman, Virgil Green, Forrest Minges, Jr., and the Second Amendment Foundation in a lawsuit against the state’s emergency powers gun ban.

Named in the suit are North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue; Reuben Young, secretary of the Department of Crime Control and Public Safety; Stokes County and the City of King.

Filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, the lawsuit contends state statutes forbidding carrying of firearms and ammunition during declared states of emergency, as well as laws enabling government officials to prohibit purchase, sale and possession of firearms and ammunition are unconstitutional because they forbid the exercise of Second Amendment rights as affirmed by Monday’s Supreme Court ruling in McDonald v. Chicago.

Plaintiffs are represented by attorney *_Alan Gura_*, who won the recent McDonald v. Chicago Second Amendment case and the landmark D.C. v. Heller case preceding it. Local counsel includes Andrew Tripp and Kearns Davis of Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard, LLC.


· Since 2004, at least 12 states of emergency have been declared, especially in the state’s hurricane-prone coastal areas.

· In February King, NC declared a state of emergency for impending snowfall, posting signs prohibiting the carriage and sale of firearms and ammunition, infringing upon its citizens’ Second Amendment rights.

· On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of applying Second Amendment scrutiny to state gun laws.

Says GRNC president Paul Valone:

“North Carolina’s legislature has chosen to infringe upon citizens’ ability to protect themselves and their families in times of need. When King, North Carolina banned guns and ammunition in response to pending snowfall, it clearly highlighted the unconstitutional restrictions endured by lawful North Carolinians.”

Grass Roots North Carolina

GRNC is an all-volunteer non-profit dedicated to preserving individual freedoms guaranteed by the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights. Since 1994, GRNC has conducted grass roots mobilization on legislation impacting Second Amendment issues, as well as voter education and through the GRNC Political Victory Fund, election action to further legislative goals.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Next Case After McDonald v. Chicago

The ink is hardly dry on McDonald and Alan Gura and the SAF are already making their next move, this time in North Carolina.

This time, they are seeking a permanent injunction against the enforcement of NC's law allowing the suspension of the RKBA in the event of a declared emergency.

{H/T Snowflakes in Hell}

Monday, June 28, 2010

More Thoughts on McDonald v. Chicago

IMO, the McDonald decision is interesting for several reasons:

1. The right to keep and bear arms (RKBA) is recognized as a "fundamental right," which places it on par with freedom of speech and freedom of religion, among others.   Although the level of scrutiny wasn't specified, I'll be very surprised to see anything less than strict scrutiny apply.

Strict scrutiny won't necessarily void gun registration schemes, but it will void outright bans, discretionary licensing requirements (see Scalia's discussion of "arbitrary and capricious" licensing requirements in Heller), and prohibitive taxes or licensing fees.

It should also void the Lautenberg Amendment, which extend the class of prohibited persons to those convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence crimes.  AFAIK, this is the only instance when a fundamental right is revoked based upon a misdemeanor.

Related to the above, the court's recognition of the Second Amendment as protecting the RKBA especially as it relates to the right of self defense may prove to be the undoing of the "sporting purposes" requirement in 18 U.S.C. Sec. 922.

2. Alito discussed in detail the intent of the 14th Amendment's framers to protect the RKBA of recently freed slaves, which was being restricted by gun control laws in the South. The racist roots of gun control laws are clearly laid out in this opinion.

3. Scalia's concurring opinion was more about eviscerating Stevens' dissent than taking another tack on incorporation. Scalia absolutely trashed Stevens' judicial philosophy.

I would really like to have dinner with Scalia. :-)

4. Thomas concurred in the result but felt that the Second Amendment should have been incorporated via the Privileges or Immunities Clause, essentially overruling The Slaughterhouse Cases.  At least since the mid-90s (when I took ConLaw in my 2L year), academics have viewed the reasoning in Slaughterhouse as bogus. My own reaction upon reading it was, "WTF?!?" I suspect the reason the court declined to follow this road to incorporation was that they weren't able to get at least 5 justices to agree to it. So, they took the safe way out.

5. None of the justices in the minority on Heller voted in McDonald to incorporate the Second Amendment, despite the fact that Heller established the individual nature of the right. Instead, they continued to fight tooth and nail against extending the protection of the 2A to all Americans, letting their own personal ideologies overcome their judicial reasoning (such as it is).  Shame on them.

What now?

Well, despite what the mainstream news is reporting, the court in McDonald did NOT strike down Chicago's handgun ban.  Rather, it remanded the case to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, which had previously upheld the trial court's dismissal of the case.  So, the case can now either go back down to the district court level for trial or perhaps the appellate court can rule on whether the Chicago law violates the Second Amendment.

It's quite possible that Chicago will revise the law to bring it into what it feels is compliance with the constitution, but this fight isn't over by a long shot.  A lot of how McDonald proceeds will depend upon how many taxpayer dollars Fuhrer Daley wants to waste.

Aside from the Chicago law, others are now ripe for being challenged, including the draconian and arbitrary pistol ownership licensing schemes in places like NYC, CA, and NJ. Additionally, the assault weapons bans in NY, NJ and CA are in jeopardy.

With the Second Amendment now recognized as protecting a fundamental right, discretionary carry license laws such as those in NY, NJ, MD, and CA may also eventually be replaced with shall-issue laws.

But no matter what, we need to recognize that the enemies of freedom have never given ground willingly, and we still have a long fight ahead of us.

Edit 6/29/10: This post seems to be generating a lot of visits.  If you're new to this blog, welcome, and please do check out the rest of my posts.

McDonald v. Chicago - WE WON!

SCOTUS just released their opinion in McDonald v. Chicago, which challenged Chicago's handgun ban.  The court held that the Second Amendment DOES apply to the states, based on the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment.

As expected the decision was 5 to 4.

Full text of the decision is here:

I haven't yet read the entire decision, and will offer more comments after having done so.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Another Wheelgun Night at the Range

Having been laid low with a sinus infection for most of the past week and a half, I really needed to do something enjoyable.  So, Saturday night I went the to range with my dad and did some shooting.

As is usual for our Saturday night range trips, we stopped at Wal Mart to see what ammo they had in stock.  Dad wanted to pick up some .45 ACP for his Colt 1911, since he'd shot all of his handloads.  No dice there, so he just wound up shooting his S&W Military & Police 9mm.  (We noticed they had plenty of 9mm and .40 S&W.)

I picked up three boxes of Winchester white box .38 Special 125 grain JHP +Ps, and a single box of Remington .38 Special 130 grain ball.

I brought two guns with my tonight.  First was a World War II vintage S&W Victory Model Military & Police .38 Special which I bought back in May.  Additionally, I brought along my S&W Model 28-2 .357.

S&W Victory Model .38 Special

This was my first time shooting the Victory Model.  As expected it runs like a champ and is very accurate. I put a 50 round box of Winchester 148 grain wadcutters into one fist-sized hole at 7 yards shooting double action.  Dad put a couple cylinders through it, making a rather small one hole group.  The action is extremely smooth, especially considering it's unlikely that gun has been shot much, based on its exterior condition.

Aside from the wadcutters I put two or three cylinders-full of the 130 grain Remington loads through it.  I bought this ammo mainly out of curiousity, never having tried this GI-type load before.  It's hotter than the 148 wadcutter load and with the old style skinny service grips, the Victory Model wacks my hand with them.

After putting around a box and half of ammo through the Victory Model I took out the Model 28.  Dad's range doesn't permit shooting magnum loads indoors, so I shot it with .38s.  Wadcutters are real easy shooting in the big N-Frame, while the 130 grain Ball loads were still very pleasant to shoot.  I also ran about a half box of the WWB .38 125 grain +Ps through it.  They, too, aren't bad to shoot in that gun.

Since my last range trip a few weeks ago, I'd replaced the Herrett's Shooting Star wood grips on the Model 28 with a set of Pachymar Presentation grips I had in my spare parts stash.  I'd originally bought them for a 1937 Brazilian contract S&W .45 ACP revolver.  I'll be taking them off.  They cover the backstrap, which makes the trigger reach too long for me and throws off the gun's balance.  I may buy a set of Pachymar Grippers with an expose backstrap.  I have a set of these on my S&W Model 625, so I know they're comfortable.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

New Home WiFi

This past week and a half has been a real PITA at Chez Markowitz.  All of us, except my younger daughter, came down with some form of sinus/bronchial crud.  I missed two and a half days of work last week, a half day this week, and still have congestion and a cough.  So, when Judith called me up Monday afternoon to let me know she couldn't get online at home, and that one of my UPSes was beeping, I was not too happy.

Something caused one of our breakers to trip.  After getting the UPS back online I found that the SMC 802.11n WiFi router which I've been using as an access point for the past couple of years was dead.  No lights, no nothin'.  So, after getting a bite to eat I took a trip down to Microcenter.

I looked over the various WiFi routers and access points they had on hand and wound up getting a Cisco-Linksys WRT54GL.  I could've gotten it cheaper at Amazon or NewEgg but didn't want to wait several days for it to arrive, since we all use wireless access daily.

I chose the WRT-54GL for a couple of reasons.  First, it has a very good reputation for reliability.  Second, there are several projects which are dedicated to providing open source firmware which extends the box's functionality.  E.g., dd-wrt, OpenWRT, and Tomato.  As explained below I'm using it only as a switch and a WAP for the time being but this might change in the future.  (Note: If you're interested in putting 3rd-party firmware on a Linksys router, make sure you buy the WRT54GL.)

Why an 802.11g router instead of a new 802.11n router?  Even with the 802.11n SMC, I had to keep it in g/n mode, since we have a few g-only devices.  E.g., Judith's iPod Touch, my Droid, and an Apple iBook.  In g/n mode I wasn't seeing any better performance than with it in n-only mode.  Also, I the Linksys's Fast Ethernet ports are not a handicap for my needs, as they are plenty fast to handle my Internet connection.  Internet speed tests give results about the same as before.  We don't do any major file transfer between systems on the LAN.  I just don't need Gig-E now.

One advantage of the SMC box was that you could put it into bridge mode, which disabled the routing functions.  My router is an SMCD3G DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem/gateway, so I don't need the WiFi box to do routing.  The WRT-54GL does not support this, so instead of connecting it to my SMCD3G via the WAN port, it's connected using a LAN port.  The DHCP server is turned off on the Linksys so there's no conflict with the SMC's.

After using the WRT-54GL for a few days it seems like the WiFi signal coverage is a bit more uniform than the dead SMC gave me.  So much for 802.11n as a range extender.  Aside from wireless protocol, antenna design and transmit power play a big role in the range of one's WiFi device.

My home webserver,, is plugged into the Linksys box.  The web server has the same publicly-routable IP it's always had, while the Linksys has a private IP on the same subnet as the SMC's private LAN interface.  There's no problem with running more than one network on the same wire.

Finally, along with the WiFi router, I bought a new APC UPS Monday night.  My old Back UPS 650 was due for a replacement.  This time I got a 1000 VA APC box, which will provide backup power to and the Linksys.  I have another Back UPS 650 powering the SMCD3G, my Arris eMTA, and our cordless phone base unit.  I can wait awhile before I'll need to replace that one.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Save the oceans from the Evil Oil Companies

Farm whales!

My green energy solution: Factory whale farming.

We would first need to secure a large enough facility for the farm. With the recent crude oil based disaster hurting the local economy, Louisiana would be the perfect location for cheap land and labor. The New Orleans Super Dome has had a history of problems and should be closed. We should be able to purchase it for a song.

We would have to caulk the doors and ticket windows – possibly spread a layer of sealant over the entire stadium and bleacher section. There aren’t a lot of windows, so the public doesn’t have to see the slaughter house and cry about “veal production”.

Using the pre-existing pump facilities associated with the levee system, it should be easy to fill the dome with sea water. We could re-circulate the water back into the storm sewers and repeat when the smell gets bad.

The most difficult part would be catching the breeding stock of Sperm Whales. That will have to be determined later. Breeding will require large quantities of lava lamps and Berry White CDs.

Feeding will be a breeze. As Obama bows to the environmental nut-jobs and stops oil drilling in the U.S. people will need clothing. Some other ARFCOM entrepreneur will need to begin a large scale leather farm. He can supply us with dead, skinned cows to feed the sperm whales. In return, we’ll provide him ground up whale meat for fertilizer and animal feed.


Gulf Oil Spill Timeline

From the UK, here is a page giving a detailed timeline of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.  One thing which I've found to be very interesting is the graph at the bottom of the page comparing this spill with others.  It's still dwarfed by the size of the 1991 spill engineered on the orders of Saddam Hussein, in an effort to frustrate Coalition forced in Gulf War I.

In a related note, I researched a little about ship sinkings in the Gulf of Mexico during World War II.

  • 42 ships were attacked by U-Boats in the Gulf of Mexico during World War II.
  • 25 of these were tankers.
  • 28 of the 42 ships were sunk
  • Another 4 were sunk in the GoM in 1943 (2 tankers and 2 freighters).

Although there no doubt was environmental damage, even with all that oil being spewed into the Gulf of Mexico, it wasn't killed.

I post this not to minimize or somehow negate the significance of the current oil leak, but it does provide some cause for optimism.

Monday, June 07, 2010

SCCSFA Junior Rifle Program

My shooting club, the Southern Chester County Sportsmen's and Farmer's Association, will be starting a junior rifle program in the Fall.

Full details here.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Obama's Gulf Oil Spill

The hypocrasy of the MSM in how they are giving Obama a pass on his lack of engagement, vs. how they pilloried Bush's handling of Hurricane Katrina is telling.

As the president, Obama could help marshal resources from the Federal .gov and other oil companies and clear through bureaucratic gridlock. Instead addressing an emergency of national import, he goes on tours to promote other parts of his agenda, raise funds for political allies, and goes on vaction.

President Present, indeed.

Monday, May 24, 2010

PA to Vote on Castle Doctrine 5/25/10, Plus Three Antigun Bills

Courtesy of PAFOA:

Tomorrow, the House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on Castle Doctrine legislation – a move we’ve been waiting on since November 19 when they held a hearing! However, it comes at a price.

In addition to the vote on the important self-defense reforms, the committee is planning to vote on three anti-gun bills on the same day!

Contact the members of the House Judiciary Committee today. Tell them that you want their support on HB40 – the Castle Doctrine bill. This specific Castle Doctrine bill will ensure that law-abiding gun owners can feel safe knowing that they can defend themselves from attackers whether it is inside or outside your home. It also protects citizens from the expense of fighting civil lawsuits filed by criminals or their families when self-defense was justified.

But tell them that they must vote down the three gun control bills:

* HB1043 which would create a “Firearm Trafficking Czar” and lead to another bureaucratic agency looking for ways to restrict gun sales in Pennsylvania.
* HB1044 that would end preemption and allow cities to create their own gun bans and carry rules, and
* HB1045 that would arbitrarily ban certain semi-automatic firearms in the Keystone State.

Self-defense reform should not come with a price that includes gun bans, wasteful spending on a new government-funded anti-gun leader, and gutting our state’s gun laws.

Contact the members of the House Judiciary Committee today. Based on the response to Castle Doctrine in other states, we know that gun control groups will get involved in this fight, making it seem as if we will have gun fights on every street corner. As we know, such dire predictions have yet to come true. Make sure you voice is heard! Call, e-mail, or even tweet – just make sure your voice is heard!
Go to PAFOA's site for links to email the House Judiciary Committee members.

Amazon Sales on Swiss Army Knives

FYI, Amazon is heavily discounting Swiss Army Knives. No emergency/survival kit is complete without one.  (Yes, that's an Amazon Associates link.)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Wheelgun Night at the Range

Last night I had a good time at the range with my dad.

Not feeling like chasing brass, but feeling that it was too long since I shot it, I brought my Smith & Wesson Model 28-2 .357 Magnum revolver.  As always, I also had my Three-Screw Old Model Ruger Single Six in .22 LR.

Because my dad's gun club doesn't allow .357 Magnum on their indoor range, I shot .38 Specials in the big Smith.  They were Winchester-Western 148 grain wadcutter target loads, which are very mild in a K-Frame, much less an N-Frame.  The Model 28 of course ran like a top and shot these loads very accurately.  I have a 35 shot group fired pretty quickly double action from 7 yards which can be covered by the bottom of a soda can.

I bought the Model 28 back in the mid-nineties.  I traded an Astra 75 9mm towards it, plus maybe a little cash.  It has a four inch barrel and Herret's Shooting Star stocks which came of my dad's six inch Model 28 (He didn't like them, I did.  Go me.)

Smith & Wesson Model 28-2

Click the thumbnail for a larger picture.

N-Frame .357s are the bee's knees IMO.  I really want to get a Model 27 with a 5" barrel but they aren't exactly growing on trees.

I ran only about 24 rounds through the Ruger, single action, one-handed.  My group was about two inches.  The gun might shoot a bit better with target ammo but I keep a box of Federal high speed bulk pack .22 LR in my range bag along with the gun. (I still need to snap a good picture of the Ruger.)

Dad brought along his S&W Military & Police 9 autoloader.  I put 10 rounds through it.  It's a nice pistol but I'm happy that I got my Springfield XD-9 instead when I decided I wanted a plastic 9mm.  The XD fits my hand better.  Dad also brought along his five inch S&W Model 625, an N-Frame in .45 ACP.  I have an older 625 and it's probably the most accurate handgun I own.  I've used it to reliably hit old rotten green peppers and apples from about 20 yards when shooting double action.  Here's a picture of my Model 625:

S&W M-625 & Becker C/U-7

(The knife is a Camillus Becker BK-7.  The clips are RIMZ synthetic moon clips.)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Mac OS X to Droid Tethering Over USB

I occasionally find it handy to tether my laptop to my Droid for Internet access.  I've used PDANet for this in the past but due to some kind of an update, USB tethering to my Mac broke and I have not been able to fix it.  Blutetooth tethering works but it's slow.

Today I did some googling and ran across these instructions for tethering using free software.   It requires a more involved setup than PDANet but it works and the speed is pretty decent, about 1.5 Mbps down x 0.45 Mbps up.

I noticed that when I terminated the tethering session, before I could reconnect I had to physically disconnect my phone from my laptop and restart the azilink program on my phone.  That's a bit inconvenient but  I'm willing to put up with a little quirkiness when dealing with free software.

Edit 5/23/10:

I'd call this pretty darn acceptable:

Friday, May 14, 2010

Book Review: A Frozen Hell

Recently I finished reading A Frozen Hell: The Russo-Finnish Winter War of 1939-1940
by William Trotter. I'd rate this as one of the best books on military history that I've read.

Trotter does a very good job of covering the background to the Winter War, explaining both the then-recent history of Finland and the geopolitical situation in the months leading up to the war. He also provides a good background on Stalin's motives as the aggressor.

Notably, Trotter devotes an entire chapter to Marshall Carl Gustav Emil Mannerheim, Finland's military commander. Mannerheim was an interesting character. Born of Swedish-speaking Finiish nobility in 1867, he served in the Tsar's army from the 1880s through the end of World War I, until Finland's independence. He was a bit of an anachronism, but for Finland, he was the right man at the right time, though not without his faults. For example, during the Continuation War (1941 - 1944) he had a problem with micro-managment which may have lead to his being surprised by the Soviet 1944 Karelian offensive. Being overly focused on minutae lead to his missing larger developments.

The Winter War is a classic David-and-Goliath story. This is true not only because of the disparate sizes of the belligerants, but also because of the disparity in armaments. The Finns held on against the gigantic Soviet onslaught for over three months not only in spite of incredibly lop sided numbers, but also lacking any significant armor, minimal artillery, and hardly any airpower. Even looking at weapons organic to infantry units, the Finns were ill-equipped. Supplies of anti-tank weapons and ammunition were low. It was a combination of the Finns' sisu (guts/grit/intestinal fortitude), excellent leadership, and mind-boggling Soviet incompetence which enabled the Finns to hang on against staggering odds and dish out far more than they got.

The Soviets' poor performance can be ultimately blamed on poor leadership. Much of that can be blamed on Stalin, whose purges gutted the Red Army's officer corps during the mid-1930s. Political reliability was valued more than military competence. Thus, unrealistic, idealogy-driven assessments of the Finns lead to unrealistic military goals, insufficient planning, and hampered battlefield decision making, since tactical decisions had to be approved by unit political officers. Political correctness took precendence over reality. One might not that we could learn something from this in confronting the social and economic issues of 2010 America.

If you're looking for a good recounting of the story of a war with which too many Americans are unfamiliar, pick up a copy of A Frozen Hell: The Russo-Finnish Winter War of 1939-1940.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

SCCSFA June Muzzleloading Rifle Match

The Southern Chester County (PA) Sportsmens' and Farmers' Association will be holding a muzzleloading rifle match on June 24, 2010.  Full details including directions to the club can be viewed here.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

I'm Not Dead

Long time, no post.

While waiting for me to come up with something of interest for this site, you might be interested in my review of the Safepacker holster from The Wilderness, over on Survival and Emergency Preparedness.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Window War Just Got Hotter

And this time, it looks like the left is kicking it up a notch.

Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor said Thursday that his Richmond campaign office has been shot at and that he's received "threatening e-mails"....

Cantor said "a bullet was shot through the window" of his campaign office. The incident happened Monday, Fox News has learned, the latest in a rash of apparent threats and acts of intimidation against members of Congress.


Cantor is a Republican, the House Minority Whip.

Most political violence in the US has historically come from the left.  E.g., the Black Panthers, SDS, and the Weather Underground. 

Most people on the conservative side of the aisle just want to be left alone to go on with their lives and to keep the fruits of their labor.   It's the leftists who want to seize property of the productive class in some misguided attempt at redistributive justice.  You can only push people too far before they snap.  If the progressives keep this up -- and I see no indication that they are backing off -- they will experience backlash greater than they can imagine.

Sharing Volumes Between Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux

As anyone who's read this blog for awhile knows, I use a couple of different laptops.  My primary machine is a Macbook Pro running Mac OS 10.6.2, while my secondary machine -- Hobbit -- is an MSI Wind netbook, currently running Windows 7 Ultimate.

The Mac is owned by my employer while I own the Hobbit.  Since I use the Mac for personal purposes as well as work-related tasks (which is OK with my employer) I needed to have a reliable means of backup in the event I change jobs.

On my desk at work I have a Lacie Quadra drive which I use for Time Machine backups over FireWire 800 (it also supports FW400, USB, and eSATA).  It would be pretty easy to restore my data from it to a personally-owned Mac.  However, getting that data onto a PC would be a real chore, requiring the use of a Mac as an intermediary.

I also wanted a portable means of backup that would work with either machine and that wasn't dependent on a network which might not be available.  I might also need to access my data using a Linux system.  The cheapest means of doing so is a USB hard disk.

The USB disk I chose is a Western Digital Elements 640 GB USB 2.0 Portable External Hard Drive WDBAAR6400ABK-NESN.  It's a 2.5" drive in a plastic external case.  It's bus powered, so no external power supply is required. Compared with the FW800 connection on my LaCie, or even a FW400 connection, USB 2.0 is noticeably slower for sustained transfers.  However, this isn't much of an issue once the initial sync is done.

One problem you run into when sharing disks between Windows and either Mac OS X or Linux boxes is the NTFS file system.  Linux has its own filesystems.  Macs use HFS+.  PCs use NTFS.  Mac OS 10.6 includes read-only support for NTFS.  Windows 7 cannot read HFS+ disks without third party software.

Luckily, there are solutions for sharing an NTFS volume between a Windows machine, and a Linux or Mac OS X machine.  Th one I picked is called NTFS-3G and is available in a higher-performance, proprietary version, as well as a free open source version.  As described in Wikipedia, "NTFS-3G is an open source cross-platform implementation of the Microsoft Windows NTFS file system with read-write support."  NTFS-3G is availabele for OS X, Linux,

I installed the open source version of NTFS-3G on my MBP and so far it's worked very well.  I have'n had problems syncing data between the Mac and the WD disk using CronoSync.  Likewise, I am able to sync the WD disk to Hobbit, using Microsoft's free SyncToy.

Now I have a backup which I can share between my Macs, Windows and Linux boxes.  That's pretty handy.