Monday, September 28, 2009

Tomato Router software

I recently switched my Linksys WRT54G router from the original firmware to Tomato.

Linksys routers use a version of Linux. Because Linux is open source, interested people can modify the code and make improvements. Various people have done various versions of replacement software with different features. One version is Tomato, and it has other sub-versions with less mainstream options. Also being Linux, this is free. I'm using the base version.

The install process could not be much simpler--Basically the same as updating the router firmware with the official updates, except with the Tomato file instead of the file from Linksys. The router will pull the file in, then reboot. Your internet connection drops for about 10 seconds. then comes back up using Tomato, preserving all the settings you had before--same SSID, same security settings. The admin password is the same, but you now have to use the "admin" or "root" account instead of leaving the user blank. The most difficult part is making sure you use the proper file for your particular version of router--there is a chart to verify by serial number. There is a small risk of a failed upgrade leaving your router in a state that is unusable--In theory there is a method to set up TFTP on one of your computers to push working firmware if this happens. I would rather not have to test that, but I had the instructions handy beforehand.

Tomato solved a problem I had with my Ipod Touch, where it could connect to the network but not the Internet. At home (and only at home) I had to give it a static DNS (which required static IP) and put it in the DMZ--directly on the Internet rather than firewalled. It worked without modification everywhere else. Now it works properly at home with no workarounds.

It also lets me used "fixed DHCP", which is the main reason I installed it. This lets the router manage IP addresses, but also lets you tell the router to give particular computers the same address every time. Setting up a fixed DHCP IP for a computer that is on the network is simple--find it in the Having stable IP addresses makes a lot of network based stuff easier to do. On my computer, the "save" button was not initially visible, I had to scroll down to find it.

There are a lot of other features that look promising, but I haven't tried yet--QOS to control and prioritize bandwidth use of various applications, (don't let Bitttorent take ALL the bandwidth, for instance) and the ability to run scripts at set times. Timed automatic reboot option--I now have it set to reboot at 4am every morning--I am hoping this prevents the need for rebooting when the router has been on for a long time. You can adjust transmit power from the pre-set of 42mw up to 251 (I would be cautious about extreme increases, there is a potential for overheating and permanent damage) You can block certain combinations of computer and Internet application at certain times--this would be good for some control of kids useage. You can limit wireless connections to pre-defined devices.

I haven't used this long enough to know if it is stable--If it is at least equal to the Linksys firmware, I am impressed.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Not as bad as it sounds

Wife: "Would you cut some of that thin plywood for my plastic drawers? I've got a drawing of what I want"

Me: "Sure, if you come help"

"But I did a drawing..."

Me: "We both know I won't be able to read your drawing"

(move to garage, where the saw is)

Me: "How wide do you want the first piece?

Wife: "What do you mean wide?

Me: "What dimensions do you want the first piece cut?

Wife: "There are 4 dimensions....

Me: "There can't be 4 dimensions, that violates the laws of physics.

Wife: "There are too!

Me: "Um. Anyway...(I look at the drawing) You need a piece 6 inches by 15?

Wife: "No, that's the drawer.

(no further information....)


Wife: "Oh...Let me look at the drawing....Um....

Me: "And you thought I could read your drawing when you can't?

Wife: "Hush. OK, I need this one 4 inches wide by 12 inches deep

Me: "Just one?

Wife: "No.

(no further information)

Me: "....Well, how many?

Wife: "Oh! I need 4 of those.

Me: "Do you need any other 4 inch wide pieces?

Wife: "No.

/me (rips wood, removes rip fence set at 4 inches, cuts to length)

Ok, what next?

Wife: "I need some that are 4 inches by 6 1/2.

Me: "I thought you didn't need any more that were 4 inches wide?

Wife: "I don't...I need them 6 inches wide by 4 inches tall.


(Despite what it sounds like here, we were laughing hard enough through most of this that I had to delay turning the saw on)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

...said the spider

A preying mantis is buzzing around the deck tonight, driving our cat nuts. At one point the mantis wound up stuck in a spider's web. The spider was determined to eat well, but I'm having more fun watching my cat try to lazily stalk so I "rescued" it from the web. Mantis is sitting at the top of the screen door, and cat is staring intently, (while lying down, of course)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Dog training

We often let our dogs run loose by the river under supervision. They know their boundaries, come when called, and do not bother people unless invited. (If you talk to Angie, she will consider that an invitation and almost certainly try to lick you...)

The other day, another dog on a leash came around the corner, so we called our dogs and put them on leashes. That dog's owner was amazed, and asked how we got them to behave that well.

I am not an expert. I can tell you what I do, but I won't claim it is the best thing.

If you scold your dogs for misbehaving, stop scolding as soon as they stop misbehaving. It is especially important that you do not discipline them when they come--they learn that coming back is when they get punished.

Make sure that most of the time when they come when called, something good happens. This may mean that you will have to call them for no reason sometimes, and give them a treat. A treat does not have to be food, it can be affection or play. A variation of this is why I have a pile of sticks in my backyard. Bella loves to carry big sticks. I do not want Bella to associate going on leash with losing her stick, so I let her bring them home.

For my dogs, rolling them on their back is an especially potent form of discipline. I save that for particularly offensive behavior.

Do not worry too much about fair. Bella would sometimes snap at other dogs at the dog park, to the point where if she did not improve I would not be willing to bring her. That ended when I either rolled her on her back, or took her to the car for a few minutes every time--even if in my opinion the other dog started it.

Praise them for doing the right thing, and not just when you are surprised by good behavior. For example, I praise them when they pass another dog without barking, when they pass people without trying to lick them, and when they are off the bike path pavement when a bike goes by.

Be consistant and insistant. An example--when one of the dogs pulls on the leash, even a little, I give a snappy yank back rather than restraining them--If it happens too often, I will scold, or shorten the leash. Ideally the leash is for signaling and emergency restraint, rather than a constant restriction. Bella is 75 pounds or so, but my mother in law says she is easier to walk than her 15 pound Chihuahua mix. From the beginning I insisted that my dogs stay on the proper side of trees and such when leashed. It only took a week or two, now they do it automatically without being told-even on the end of a 20 foot retractable leash.

Do not punish unless you catch them in the act. If you come home and discover something they have caused, you can be verbally upset with the problem, and ignore the dogs while you fix the problem. Minimize unnecessary commands if you cannot back them up.

Commands are short and brisk--Usually the dog's name to get her attention, then a 1 or 2 word command.

I have not managed to teach Bella to quit barking. However, if I tell her to sit or lie down, she will obey, and usually stop barking as well. I think "do this" is an easier concept than "quit doing that".

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Earlier today, we were sitting on the deck when we heard exuberant shouting, a loud diesel pickup accelerating, and then a crashing noise.

Turns out that a dually diesel truck pulling a portable cement mixer took the corner a little too fast, and tipped the (empty) mixer over.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Odd pocket watch

Stopped by the thrift store and found a pocket watch. Was not running, but the stem felt like a handwind, and I have never seen a quartz marked "antimagnetic". Center seconds means it is more than likely a wristwatch movement in a pocket watch case, and probably a cheap one at that. Not something I particularly want in my collection, but more than likely I can get it running with a few drops of oil and make a small profit on Ebay.

When I opened it up, I found that it was indeed the cheap pinlever wristwatch movement I expected, but I also found a little circuit board, batteries, and a piezo speaker on the case back, a strange combination.

It turns out that with fresh batteries, it plays Greensleeves when opened.

There can only be a few years in the late 70's or very early 80's where this made any sense--any earlier and the electronics would be either unavailable or expensive, and much later and all the cheap wind up movements were replaced by quartz.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Brady Rank

I was looking at the Brady Campaign's ranking of state gun laws. Like many anti-gun propiganda, there is a lot of deceptive wording. I decided to fisk Ohio's version. Brady indented, my comments in regular text:

Are there limitations on assault weapons? No

Ohio - No state restriction on the sale or possession of military-style semiautomatic assault weapons. Assault weapons are as easy to buy as hunting rifles. Congress and President Bush allowed the federal assault weapons ban to sunset in 2004. See also: Large Capacity Ammunition Magazines
"Assault weapons" are as easy to buy because there is not a meaningful distinction between them. The expired ban covered things like grips, bayonet mounts, launchers for grenades (grenades remained tightly regulated) and flash hiders, and nothing that made them more dangerous.

Must handguns be ballistic fingerprinted prior to sale? No

No state requirement that gun dealers or manufacturers provide police with sample bullets/cartridges or digital images of bullets/cartridges prior to the sale of a handgun, ballistic fingerprinting, which would assist police in tracing bullets at crime scenes to the guns that fired them.

Ballistic fingerprinting has proved to be nearly entirely useless in the two states that require it. In many years, only one case even used it, and was likely solved before the database was consulted. It does require registration, like many of these laws that the Brady Campaign thinks are needed.

Are gun owners held accountable for leaving guns accessible to kids? No

No state requirement that gun owners take responsible steps to prevent children from gaining easy access to their firearms. Gun owners are not held accountable for leaving loaded guns around kids, even if a young child shoots themselves or someone else with a gun left in plain sight.

Ohio can and does find people guilty of relevant charges when they neglegently allow children access to guns, although there is not a specific law covering guns. Most of these laws would effectively make it illegal to keep a gun ready for self defense in the home--this is part of the Heller supreme court decision.

Must locking devices be sold with guns? Partial

Ohio - Requires a licensed gun dealer to "offer" to sell a child-safety lock that is appropriate for the firearm being purchased, at the time a gun is sold. The law does not require the gun buyer to actually purchase, or use, the child-safety lock. Child-safety locks cost as little as $10 and could save lives if sold with firearms.

Not sure they are correct here. Every gun I have purchased at a dealer has come with a lock. One pawn shop I have seen has a sign that says all guns, even those being redeemed from pawn must have a lock, and if the customer does not have one they will provide one for $3.

Are only authorized users able to operate handguns? No

Ohio - There is no state law mandating that all new handguns be sold with 'personalized' handgun technology that would only allow the authorized user to operate the firearm. Childproof handguns play an important role in helping to prevent unintentional shootings among children and to deter suicides among minors.
This may be the biggest misstatement on the list of laws the Bradys think are a good idea. To the best of my knowledge, no guns are available with this technology. Although similar laws exist, they have the restriction of "when such technology becomes available" and are not in force yet.

Must gun dealers adhere to state licensing and/or oversight systems? Partial

Ohio - No state laws exist requiring firearm dealers obtain a state license to sell firearms. Licensed dealers must report to law enforcement any firearm that is stolen from their inventory.

Federal dealer requirements still apply, as do the state laws for running a business. No idea what they think will be gained by having a separate state gun bureaucracy.

Do cities have authority to hold gun makers legally liable? No

Ohio - State law forbids city and county governments from taking any legal action to hold gun manufacturers accountable, even when they act irresponsibly in the way they design, market or distribute weapons. No other industry enjoys such special immunity for irresponsible conduct. Individuals are also prohibited from filing certain lawsuits against the gun industry to hold them accountable for wrongful conduct.

Because of nuisance lawsuits,(example: suing Glock for irresponsible distribution when a gun they sold to police wound up in criminal hands) a relatively recent federal law would preempt any state law that allowed this. No other industry has had the repeated attempts to claim that they are responsible for being successful.

Are background checks required at gun shows? No

No state requirement that a Brady criminal background check be done on people buying guns at gun shows if they are sold by "private" individuals or gun "collectors." Gun shows can operate on a "no questions asked, cash-and-carry" basis, making it easy for criminals and even juveniles to buy as many guns as they want at gun shows, including assault weapons. No records are required to be kept on gun show sales by private individuals or gun collectors, making it almost impossible for police to trace such weapons if they are used in a crime.

The loophole is that the rules at a gun show are just like the rules everywhere else. It is illegal to knowingly sell to a juvenile or criminal, regardless of where. Dealers have to follow the same rules as in their own shops.

Are businesses forced to allow guns in the workplace? No

Ohio - There is no state law forcing employers or businesses to allow guns on their privately held property.
What they are objecting to in other states is giving employers the right to decide what is allowed inside employee's locked cars. I have mixed feelings here, because I am sympathetic to property rights, but I also think employees retain rights inside their cars.

Are colleges/universities forced to allow guns on campus? No

Ohio - There is no state law forcing colleges/universities to allow guns on campus
I am actually surprised that they do not grade this one a partial--there is a law that requires campuses to allow concealed carry license holders to store their guns in their cars.

Is it illegal to sell handguns to anyone under 21 years of age? Yes

State law makes it illegal to sell handguns to juveniles under the age of 21 by unlicensed sellers. Under federal law, only federally licensed dealers are prohibited from selling or delivering handguns or ammunition for handguns to any person under the age of 21. A strong state law is needed to stop unlicensed persons from selling handguns to those under the age of 21.

This question is misleading-- makes it seem like some states allow minors to buy handguns. Federal law makes it illegal to sell to juveniles under 18.

Are there limitations on large capacity ammunition magazines? No

Ohio - There is no state law restricting the sale or possession of large capacity ammunition magazines that can fire 30, 50 or even 75 rounds without reloading. Ammunition magazines with a capacity of more than 10 rounds of ammunition are considered large capacity magazines. These types of ammunition magazines are available for any firearm capable of accepting a detachable magazine, including assault weapons and semi-automatic handguns.

This should actually be a partial. Ohio law considers any gun that can shoot more than 31 rounds without reloading to be a machine gun--this makes a gun with a 30 round magazine subject to all the rules and restrictions of a machine gun, and effectively illegal for most people. You can posses the magazines, but you cannot use them. 10 rounds is an arbitrary limit from the expired 1996 assault weapons ban, and includes the vast majority of police and military handgun magazines. (I may have the exact number wrong here, it is around 30)

Is a license/permit required to buy handguns? No

No state requirement that handgun buyers obtain a handgun license or undergo any type of safety training prior to buying a handgun.

True. However, the NICS background check still applies.

Is there a one-handgun-per-month limit on sales? No

No state restrictions on gun-trafficking such as a limit on the number of handguns that can be purchased at one time. Gun traffickers can easily buy large quantities of handguns at gun stores and resell them on the street to criminals. violation of federal law. Dealers are required to report multiple sales.

May police limit carrying concealed handguns? No

Ohio - State law forces sheriffs to issue concealed handgun (CCW) permits to any applicant who can legally buy a gun and has minimal "training." People can carry hidden handguns in cars and into neighborhood parks, playgrounds, restaurants, shopping malls, etc.
Apparently the Bradys prefer a system where the rich and powerful can get licenses, and minorities cannot. Ohio has one of the strictest training requirements in the US.

Interestingly, this is what they have to say about California concealed carry law:

Police chiefs and state sheriffs "may issue" permits that allow people to carry concealed weapons if police believe it is in the interest of public safety. Anyone so approved by local law enforcement must undergo safety training in the legal and safe use of the weapon and there are limits in where they may carry such weapons.
Although licensing is discriminatory in most areas of California, there are far fewer restrictions on where the licensed can carry.

Must new semi-automatic handguns be sold with microstamping technology? No

Ohio - There is no state law requiring new semi-automatic handguns be fitted with microstamping technology, which would engrave on each fired bullet casing microscopic identifying markings that are specific to that firearm alone. This technology would provide law enforcement with another investigative tool to better solve gun crimes and apprehend armed criminals.
No state actually requires microstamping yet. California has postponed adoption because the technology does not work. Most microstamping laws have been proposed by the company that owns the patents.

May municipalities enact law stronger than the state's? No

State law does not allow local cities or counties to enact local gun laws to regulate firearms that are stronger than state law or that fill loopholes in state law.

For example: some local jurisdictions restrict assault weapons and large-capacity magazines, hold adults responsible if minors have easy access to guns, require a handgun identification card, require gun dealers to be licensed and restrict Saturday night specials.

Preemption prevents a patchwork of often incompatible local laws. Before Ohio had preemption, one of my guns was legal for me to carry in Cincinnati but not Toledo, and one legal in Toledo but not Cincinnati. A traveller with a license would have to research laws in each town before each trip.

May police maintain gun sale records? No

State law forbids police from keeping any record of gun sales. Police are prohibited from maintaining gun sale records that could be used for gun tracing and criminal investigations. The state has no way of knowing whether people who bought guns in the past have become criminals and are no longer allowed to possess firearms. The lack of gun sale records also makes it very difficult to identify and prosecute gun traffickers or gang members that buy guns in bulk and resell them on the street.

It also makes future gun bans and confiscation more difficult. Registration again.

Are all guns registered with law enforcement? No

No state requirement that gun owners register their firearms, though they are required to report lost or stolen guns. Police do not know how many guns are in the state or where they are. The lack of registration data makes it more difficult for police to trace guns used in crime, identify illegal gun traffickers or hold gun owners accountable for their weapons. There is no state system to automatically identify and disarm felons and other prohibited people who bought guns legally in the past, but later committed a crime or otherwise became ineligible to keep possession of their firearms.

...although it remains illegal for the new felons to posses guns. Registration is a necessary requirement to confiscation.

Are firearm owners required to report all lost or stolen guns to law enforcement? Yes

Ohio - State law requires all firearm owners to report lost/stolen firearms to law enforcement. This requirement helps to keep illegal guns off the streets by removing the excuse used by gun traffickers that "lose" their firearms.

I am not sure if this law is true. Also not sure what it should accomplish unless accompanied by registration.

Are there consumer safety standards on guns? No

No state requirement that handguns meet any basic safety standards. No requirement that guns be sold with a child-safety lock or a built-in �personalized� lock to prevent unauthorized use. No requirement that handguns have loaded-chamber indicators or magazine safety disconnects that could prevent unintentional shootings. The state Attorney General is authorized to independently establish handgun safety standards, but has not done so.

Generic child safety locks are not very useful-I have not heard of anyone using one more than once. I have never heard of built-in personalized locks--that is what a gun safe is for. People are more likely to understand that you do not point guns at people no matter what than they are to understand each individual gun's loaded chamber indicator.

Are there limitations on 'junk' handguns? No

No state restriction on the sale of Saturday night specials or "junk" handguns. No requirement that handguns meet any safety tests such as a drop-safety test or a firing-performance test. No restriction on the sale of snub-nosed handguns that are very small and easy to conceal.

The junk standards have little to do with quality--Many high-quality polymer framed guns have to get trivial modifications in order to avoid the federal imported "junk gun" standards. Most of these standards have nothing to do with accuracy, reliability or safety--examples are dimples on grips, adjustable sights and grooves on triggers are all things that make a gun "less junk". Most states allow concealed carry, so there is a legitimate purpose for small, easy to conceal guns.

Is deadly force allowed to be a first resort in public? No

Ohio - The state does not allow the use of deadly force as a first resort in public.
Another misrepresentation of "stand your ground" laws. Most of these allow deadly force when attacked by someone committing a felony, but do not allow you to shoot first in ordinary situations. Most of these laws also include a clause that prevents criminals or their families from suing after legitimate self-defense.

Are background checks required on all gun sales? No

Ohio - No state requirement that criminal background checks be done on all firearm sales. People buying firearms at gun shows, swap meets, or through newspaper or internet advertisements are not subject to a background check. Criminal background checks are only required if the buyer goes to a federally-licensed gun store - all other sales are not subject to the background check.
Universal background checks are effectively gun registration. I think "only required at a federally licensed gun store" is intended to be deceptive--all gun stores are required to be federally licensed.

Is there a waiting period on gun sales? No

No state requirement that there be a waiting period for gun sales beyond the "instant check" in federal law. Police are not given any additional time to run a criminal background check to make sure the gun buyer is not prohibited from acquiring firearms. There is no "cooling off" period to help prevent crimes of passion.

Extra checks? Is there anywhere that does more of a check than the NICS system? If the check cannot be performed instantly, the government has three days to perform it.

I have not understood the point of a cooling off period--It is only even potentially effective in a very narrow range of circumstances--someone hot-headed enough to think that shooting someone else is a good idea, but rational enough to gain control of himself before the waiting period ends, who does not have access to a gun, who has not ran into serious trouble with the law before.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

There ought to be a law

In the last few months, we've heard about the Lori Drew case, where an adult drove a child to suicide through social networking sites. She was just acquitted on appeal.

"There ought to be a law"


Lori Drew should be shunned. She should be too embarrassed to be seen in public to the point where she changes her name and moves to a new town. But any law capable of stopping what she did would also stop lots of completely harmless behavior.

The laws she was convicted of breaking were not relevant, let alone adding new ones.
(a) Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication, with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person, using electronic means to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.

This makes a whole lot of beneficial behavior on the Internet risky--I've always got a problem with intent being part of the law. Eugene Volk among others have suggested quite a few legitimate behaviors that would be at least technically violations of this law.

"But we wouldn't use it like that"

Bull. Looking again at the Lori Drew case, she was convicted of hacking activities--not because she broke into a computer, but because she did something people thought justified punishment, and that was what they could find. It would be like someone who passed out flyers at a store marked "no solicitation" being convicted of burglary because they were not using the store for a purpose the owners approve of.

Most laws have unintended consequences, (or for the more cynical, consequences that were foreseen by the authors, but not meant for the public to realize until too late). We have to allow some unpleasant things to remain legal if we are going to keep the ability to run our lives with minimal interference.