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.