Thursday, April 30, 2009

Jaunty Jackalope first impressions

I've just upgraded to from the Intrepid Ibex version of Ubuntu Linux to Jaunty Jackalope, the latest brand new version.

So far, most of the significant problems have been with sound. It initially wanted to send all sound to my USB phone rather than to the speakers. Not sure why it didn't keep my old settings, since this is an upgrade rather than a fresh install, and it was still using Alsa. I've decided to give PulseAudio another chance--Last time I used Pulse, it would frequently go bad, and require me to kill and restart it once or twice a day. Once I got it sorted where to send sounds, it seems to work OK. Audacity music editor now works with Pulseaudio.

Amarok looks promising for a music player if I understand the weighting system right, but it is more complicated than XMMS. It doesn't come with MP3 support standard, a common problem with Linux apps. That is excusable because of the legal issues involved. The gripe I have is that it also doesn't tell you about the problem, it just skips all the MP3's without playing them. A quick Google told what to install to make it work. Audacious (the successor to XMMS that doesn't work as well) doesn't work out of the box, where it did before.

Another setting that didn't carry over properly was the LCD subpixel order--it was set to vertical, and that triggered a bug in some apps (Skype and the HP printer applet) that made their fonts completely unreadable. Setting the order properly both fixed Skype and made fonts better.

I now have control of typing repeat rate that I lost in Intrepid.

It appears that the one-pixel line glitches I had with dual monitors are gone (I'd get a one pixel horizontal line on one monitor that was related to what was shown on the other) but they weren't consistently present before, so I can't be completely certain.

Panels (Toolbars) are on my laptop monitor where I want them. Intrepid kept moving them to the external monitor whenever I would disconnect then reconnect.

The install wanted to delete a bunch of stuff that it thought were no longer needed, but gave the option to cancel, which I did. Several of the things it wanted to remove weren't obsolete, but rather things I had installed without using the official repositories. The same options to remove were available in computer janitor, but with decent explanations and individual control. This let me get rid of stuff that was really obsolete, but let me keep XMMS, Skype and codecs.

Flash appears to be much more stable, where in Intrepid I was getting sound problems that required restarting Flash periodically.

So far, not much in the way of amazing features, but solid bug fixes. Much more pleased than the upgrade to Intrepid Ibex.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Gun storage

Based on a recent post by James, I decided to do a post on gun storage.

There is a balance between cost, risk and accessibility for storing self-defense guns. I believe that merely hiding guns is irresponsible if they will be unattended. Adequate storage is relatively cheap, with a little bit of creativity. I'm not a fan of individual gun locks--they are great to keep young kids from getting hurt, but they don't do nearly enough to keep the guns from being stolen where the lock can be dealt with at leisure.

I don't yet own any long guns. I've got a pistol safe, mounted in a discrete location that makes it awkward to pry or cut. Most of our guns are stored there. (I'm being deliberately vague with specifics) Self-defense guns are stored loaded, recreational guns are stored empty. In my view, the risk of storing a loaded gun in a locked container is smaller than the risk of loading and unloading a gun frequently.

In the bedroom, I have a small digital-lock Brinks box, mounted and hidden. (Any portable lockbox should be mounted to something non-portable) It isn't as secure as the pistol safe, but it has the advantage of being quick access. The combination is more of a pattern--more digits than you might expect, but lots of repeat keystrokes, and I remember it by positions rather than number so I can do it in the dark.

With light, I can get my hand on a gun in the locked box in 4 seconds. about a second longer in the dark. If the first notice I have is when the attacker is already in the bedroom, even an unlocked container is likely too slow, but for most other circumstances, I can't think of anything faster with equal security. This box is primarily for my wife's convenience, and quick access is a secondary consideration. When I worked nights, she would often leave it open until I came home. If you are going to leave it open, I recommend putting your keys, cellphone or something you know you will take with you when you leave the house, to remind you to lock it before you go.

The guns are stored loaded, hanging from wooden dowels through their barrels, at an angle that leaves them easy to grip. The dowels are mounted to an angled hole in a piece of scrap plywood, which is in turn mounted to the box. I used fairly large dowels, and chucked them into a drill to sand them down to a caliber less than the gun barrel.
I also keep a few other things there--the hex wrench to tighten the belt clips on my holster, spare keys to things unrelated to guns, and the pocket holster for the Keltec.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

File Managers

I'm planning to update to the latest just-released version of Ubuntu. Since there is a small but significant chance it will not be an improvement, a sensible thing to do is to back up my personal files to make it easier to go back. The easiest brute-force method is to hook up an external drive and just copy over. Time consuming, but my part of it is relatively short--hook up the drive, make sure there is room, and copy. Come back in a couple hours. In theory.

My home folder has more than 50,000 files, and is over 50 gig. Some of this is waste--I've got a copy of an old home folder which nearly doubles the size. With this many files, it is nearly inevitable that there will be at least one that the computer can't copy for one reason or another. I have no problem with this. My problem is that the computer will invariably use that as an excuse to stop doing anything, and ask you how to handle the error.

Linux is better than Windows here--I've never figured out exactly what "yes to all" or "no to all" means in Windows, since it would often ask the same question over and over even when selecting one of the "to all" answers. I suspect it was something to do with the directory a file was in, but I never bothered to investigate much. Linux at least has the same definition of "to all" as I do.

The absolute linear flow of all the file managers I've used bugs me. When it runs into a problem with a particular file it should of course throw up an error, but I don't understand why it can't continue on with the files it can deal with, and deal with the error later once I've given an answer.

What I should do is use proper backup software--I'm likely going to do that once I decide if the new version is acceptable. I'm already looking into which ones to use, but from the descriptions it is hard to tell if it meets my needs. I need the ability to do either incremental or differential backups (only what has changed either since the last backup, or since the last full backup) and the ability to back up to a USB drive. Backing up my wife's Windows box would be nice, but not essential, and backing up TO it automatically would also be nice but not essential. I don't need enterprise features, I would like a GUI, and I want some notification if there's a problem. (Apparently Sbackup failes this last step--if it fails to back up, it doesn't notify you)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

More on the borrowed dog

We took Myra on a walk with our dogs yesterday, while riding our bike and trike. Myra isn't used to running beside bikes, so eventually we figured to put her in the rear basket of the trike until we got to the river where they can run free. Afterwards, we stopped by MIL's house.

Myra used to ride in a bicycle trailer with her last owner's daughter, so the basket wasn't anything astoundingly new. In fact she kept trying to climb back into the basket when we would let her out.

Myra was frantically overjoyed to see MIL, and MIL decided to try keeping her again. We worked on calming her when the BIL she doesn't like was around, and somewhat succeeded.

Unfortunately this morning when she was out with MIL, a bike and trailer similar to the one she used to ride in went past...and Myra followed. She is still missing.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A can of worms

If you need the warning on this package....

you've got problems.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

House progress

Spent the weekend working on the downstairs apartment. The dining room had ceiling tiles, the 12"x12" type, but they were badly water damaged, and we took them down quite a while ago. Got half of them up, then moved to other things. I finally finished the other half.

Also mostly finished is the living room floor. I used cheap laminate. It looks as good as the better laminate I used in other rooms, but doesn't assemble as easily. It looks better than the worn-out carpet we had before, and tons better than the painted floor underneath.

I still have to put trim down, but that should be fairly easy. Nice and bland (but easy care) for renters.

Borrowed dog

We are watching my mother-in-law's little Spitz-like dog, Myra. Mother in law lives with 2 of her sons. Myra was somewhat mistreated by her previous owner. She is strangely aggressive to one of my brothers-in-law, but is fine with the other. She's fine with me, but that's not unusual--I'm not a dog whisperer, but I'm probably at least a dog mumbler...It is fairly common for me to be petting a dog at the dog park, only to find out that the dog doesn't usually like strangers, or strange men.

The theory is that we will keep her for a week or two, bring her to visit MIL and BIL fairly often, and see if we can stop her from snapping at the BIL she doesn't like. It isn't my theory, but she isn't much of a hardship, except that her bark is piercing.

Monday, April 20, 2009


I was sitting at my desk this afternoon looking out a west window, and thought "this looks like rainbow weather".

Turns out I was right--A rainbow almost due east.

(Click the pic to enlarge)

Thursday, April 02, 2009


I bought a batch of ebay watches to fix and re-sell. One of them said it was a Seiko, although not even as convincing as the one that gave me my nickname.

Fake Seikos have been a problem for decades. The older ones like this were typically Swiss or Hong Kong manual wind pinlever movements. They would be produced with a name like ASEIKOR, shipped to an unscrupulous retailer who would then remove the first and last letters on the dial. (I've removed letters on these with a q-tip and alcohol) Sometimes this was done well, on this particular watch there are fairly large smudges. I think these brands were produced by the same company that did Woldman--I've seen similar watches in both versions, and both have used the '360' and Electra' designations.

Genuine Seikos are mostly automatic wind, especially in the "mod" styles like this watch. The printed 'Date' is another sign of a cheap watch, designed to look like a day/date watch from a distance. "23" is meant to be mistaken for the "23 jewel" designation on some real Seikos.

The back is another clue, both in cheapness and in the wording. Real Seikos will say Seiko on the back, will have an 8-digit model number and a serial number.

The final clue is the movement itself. Even the least expensive mechanical Seikos use decent quality jeweled movements, not one-jewel Roskopf style pinlevers.

Modern fakes are a lot harder to spot. They are typically made in Communist China. They have stainless steel cases and automatic movements that are quite similar in overall construction to genuine Seikos, while not matching any Seiko model. Some of the differences are in quality control, and far rougher finish of important parts like the escapement. Others are wrong details, like a single watch with several different movement numberss, or claiming to be a movement, but also claiming the wrong number of jewels.

Around the same time were semi-fakes, with soundalike names designed to mislead--A "Bolivia electronic "25" Datomatic". Crown is at 4:00, like a Bulova Accutron, a watch that was legitimately electronic. Datomatic is in script, easy to confuse with "Automatic" , and amusingly, spelled "daytomatic" on the back.
None of this is new. In the late 1800's, America was the leader in pocket watches. There were imported Swiss watches with American sounding names, or sometimes with names of actual American companies.

90% of Mexican crime guns from US debunked

We've seen quotes implying that the ATF has confirmed 90% of recovered Mexican crime guns come from US sources. This is a perfect example of the "whisper-down-the-line" numbers used by anti-gun groups.

What was really said was that 90% of guns submitted for tracing were traced to a US source. What is ignored is that there are a lot of guns that obviously do not come from the US--These guns were not submitted. Guns made in or imported to the US have to have manufacturers or importers marks, making it fairly easy to determine that many guns do NOT have a US source.

If you include the total number of Mexican recovered firearms, about 17% were traced to the US. Honestly, that number surprises me, I would not have thought it would be that high.