Test everything

The picture below is from a computer backup I was doing over the network.


This was with the existing file on the target drive being overwritten. For new files the transfer rate is nearly constant and a little above the peak shown here.

I suspect the algorithm used by either the driver or the controller for the hard disk for update an existing file results in a large number of seeks of the head. The file copy program (Robocopy in this case) could work around the problem by deleting existing files before doing the copy. But the designers of the program may not have been aware of the problem with this particular hard drive.

In my situation I don’t care a lot because it can just run as a background task and it doesn’t much matter if it takes 10 minutes or 300 minutes (yes, the transfer rate is over 30x slower). But for some people it might.

As always, thoroughly testing your products, processes, and assumptions is important and either this one wasn’t fully tested or management marked the bug as “Won’t Fix” and shipped it anyway.

Having presided over numerous Boomerite failures I know how easy it is to say, “This change shouldn’t matter” or “This has to make it better, no need to test it.” There is a reason many companies have a test team that is independent of the development team and may even have a reporting chain independent of engineering.

This, almost, paranoia about testing can be generalized to a lot of things in your life. Have you ever changed a tire on your current vehicle? I bought a used vehicles a few years ago and discovered a day or so after I bought it that it didn’t have a jack in it.

You have a gun to defend your home and loved ones? Have you ever pied the corners of your home with that shotgun? Have you looked at possible choke points for stopping a home invasion? How about looked at what happens to misses or shoot-throughs from likely shooting positions? How do those speed reloads you practice for USPA matches work out for you when you are at the top of the stairs in your birthday suit?

Progressives want the government to have more power to implement “social justice”. Ask the tens of millions of people that went into the Gulags of the USSR how that worked out for them. Oh, that’s right, most of them that weren’t shot after their forced confessions were worked and starved to death. We don’t need to run that test again. 100+ million people have already been killed during the testing done by various progressives regimes in the 20th century.

Anti-gun people want to register guns. Ask Canada how that worked out for them.

Does your bug-out kit included canned goods but you forgot to include a can opener?

You’ll discover many such things when you test.

Replacement for tracers

Via Mitchel M. on the gun email list at work:

The interesting part starts at 1:46.

This may mean that the new “tracers” could be safely used when the fire risk from normal tracers is too great. I’m a skeptical they can match the brightness of the pyrotechnic based tracers. But they probably would work for many applications.

And of course there are application where incendiary rounds will be needed when tracers might have worked.

Electronic Marques

Interesting idea. The US Constitution authorizes operations against pirates. Article 1,Section 8, Clause 10 “To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations;”

It also covers issuing letters of Marque and Reprisal, Article 1, Section 8, Clause 11 “To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;”

Why not do the suddenly obvious and issue Letters of Marque and Reprisal to private corporations to go after international electronic pirates, foreign agents who are attacking our corporations and infrastructure electronically? Makes sense to me.

The high point of our weekend

Barb, both my brothers, and I went for a walk yesterday to check out one of the WiFi Nanostations I put up to get a new internet connection to brother Doug the last time I visited the farm. Doug just has a temporary installation for the solar power and the mounting of the Nanostation is still the steel fencepost I used but it is still working:


The signal strength at this station was about 10 dB lower than the last time I was there and by realigning the antenna we regained 3 dB but we were unable to account for the other 7 dB loss.

It was only a short distance away so I suggested we visit the highest point on the farm. According to the GPS on my phone the altitude is 3161 feet (+/- 10’) above sea level.

From there I had brother Doug take a picture of Barb and I:


As you can see in the background there is a very nice view from there. Some of the geological features are 30+ miles away.

Windows Phone app reviews

My two Windows Phone apps have some reviews now. All are five stars!

For As the Crow Flies:

  • by Antonio

    Thank you for this app. Useful for me as a firefighter because I can only live a certain distance from the firehouse “as the crow flies” so this app very useful. Simple but worked perfectly.

  • by Kevin

    Very accurate, easy to use.

For Field Ballistics:

  • by Bryan

    Seriously a cool app for shooters.

Double action!

No, it’s not a porn video, though some moms may demand it.

Recently I read Col. Cooper on the subject of double action. His thesis is that DA means the gun has two action modes; Single action, wherein you thumb-cock the piece, and trigger cocking, wherein the trigger does the cocking and the releasing. Two modes of fire (thumb cocking and trigger cocking) hence the term double action. Therefore he said that the term “double action only” is nonsensical.
Continue reading

A new Internet connection

Off and on for a couple years and then starting in during the week between last Christmas and New Years I have spent a LOT of time trying to get a good Internet connection to my brother Doug. I have a good connection at Boomershoot Mecca but Doug and his family are blocked by the woods behind their house from Teakean Butte which is the source of my connection. They have a satellite connection that cost a lot of money, is unreliable, has HORRIBLE ping times, and poor transfer rates.

Mecca is 1.6 miles from our Dad’s house and is blocked by a small hill. Doug’s house is about 75 yards further still. And Dad’s house, a machine shed, and the hill block their view of the Boomershoot site. So we had to find a way around the hill just get it to Dad’s place. From Dad’s place it is a pretty easy hop around the machine shed. But first we needed to get to Dad’s place.

The obvious answer is to put a repeater on the hill between Mecca and Dad’s place. But we don’t own the hill. The nickname we have for the owner is “Wicked Witch of the Boomershoot”. So you can imagine how well such a request might be greeted with. I wouldn’t be surprised if she complained about us transmitting electromagnetic waves over her property—if she knew about it.

Anyway the best we could come up with was putting a repeater on a hill I own 1.7 miles from Dad’s house. Yup. We go further way to get a better signal to Dad’s place.

The ordinary Nanostation2s should work for several miles under ideal conditions. But this isn’t an ideal situation. We are probably actually just out of line of sight. In December I couldn’t get things to quite work unless I chose a different hill which belongs to cousin Alan. We probably could have gotten permission from him but at that location we needed to have two Nanostation2s, one pointed toward Mecca and the other toward Dad’s house.

I ordered a parabolic reflector hi-gain external antenna and came back the end of February. And found to my delight that I had good signal strength with just the Nanostation2s, completely different results that when I had done my tests in December. I still wasn’t able to get a high bandwidth connection but I was pretty sure it was a configuration issue on my part. Doug purchased the equipment he would need to get solar power on my hill to power the Nanostation2 and I planned to come back in a few weeks and do my part with the configuration of the Nanostation2s.

I went back in April and again tried to get a connection. Now the Nanostation2s alone didn’t work. The signal strength was back to what I had in December which was too low to be usable. What is going on? I suspect some differences in the ground conductivity or something. I just don’t know for certain. Again I gave up for the moment.

This weekend with the help of daughter Kim, Jacob, and Jeff I did some Boomershoot cleanup, mounted more solar panels on Boomershoot Mecca, and took down a solar panel that Doug was going to use for the repeater. I then proceeded to do some more signal strength testing.

I put up a twelve dBi antenna (a Nanostation2 has a 10 dBi internal antenna) on my hill attached to a Ubiquiti BulletM2 (the same one I used at Boomershoot with great success) and with the parabolic (24 dBi) antenna on a Nanostation2 at Dad’s place was able to get good signal strength. But for some reason the bandwidth sucked. Probably a configuration issue I guessed.

Doug wanted to avoid mounting anything on the outside of Dad’s house so I moved the parabolic antenna to the BulletM2 on my hill and used the internal 10 dBi antenna on a Nanostation2 at Dad’s place. It should only be a 2 dB loss compared to the 12 dBi antenna we were testing with before.

Signal strength was good but the bandwidth was in the toilet. I’m talking throughput to the Internet on the order of 60 kbs download and 10 kbs upload. It has to be a configuration issue. I spent hours trying all kinds of things with no success.

I finally decided the BulletM2 on my hill had to be the problem. So Monday afternoon I put in a Nanostation2 in place of the BulletM2 driving the parabolic antenna:


It worked. Just this minute I have 2.11 Mbps download and 0.68 Mbps upload from my computer through a WiFi access point in their house, a switch, five Nanostations (remember I needed to hop around the machine shed), the router at Mecca (two miles away via the Nanostation path), and to the outside world.

Tomorrow I bring my Verizon Network Extender to test out in their house. I’ll finally have them connected to the rest of the world in a civilized manner.

Update: Early (6:19) in the morning the connection to the rest of the world was less busy and I got this result:


Yeah. I’m all thrilled about something that is considered poor service by anybody in a major city but this is out in an area where it’s tough to even get cell service. Only Verizon and Inland Cellular even have a hint of service here. And then it is very spotting and intermittent. You have to travel at 20 miles, as the crow flies, to get service from AT&T or T-Mobile.

Their satellite ISP has an advertised (but never realized) download rate of 1.5 Mbs and upload of 256 kps plus a download data limit of 17 Gbytes per month. Ping times are in the 1.25 second range. If you watch a few movies and do a bit of web browsing you exceed that data limit. This is so much better and they will have a solid Verizon connection in their house in a few hours.

1911 barrel question

Well, technically it’s a Colt 1991A1 question. How much difference is there between a ramped barrel and a “normal” barrel? Specifically, is there much work beyond grinding off some metal at the breech to turn a ramped barrel like this into an unramped barrel like this. Just by eyeballing it, it looks like grinding away the ramp (carefully, of course, and without overheating it, etc) should be all that is necessary. Is there anything else that needs to be done, or some other difference that makes them non-interchangeable? I’m not a serious 1911 geek, but I’m sure there are some out there that would know. The difference in availability is the reason I’m asking. The description says some minor fitting may be needed in any case, and I assume that’s generally emery-cloth minor grinding to slim it a thousandth or two in one spot or another to make for a proper fit instead of being overly tight, but is there more involved?

Gun Lube

Via Peter at Bayou Renaissance Man I came across this article on gun lubes and water protection. Basically a guy with the handle of “Rancid Crabtree” bought a bunch of stuff, documented his procedures, tested things, took pictures, and posted the results. I’m sure quibbles might be made about some detail or another of what he did, but it’s a lot wider that any other test I’ve seen, and makes at least as much sense as others I’ve come across. Food for thought in any case.

Privacy is tough

Very interesting stuff:

The signals produced by smartphones turn out to be so identifiable that it may never be possible to use one anonymously. Even basic privacy may be difficult to achieve.

Despite all the standardization and quality control that go into accelerometers and other sensors built into smartphones, each sensor contains enough tiny, unique imperfections to identify, not only the physical component, but also the data it records, researchers from the University of Illinois, the University of South Carolina, and Zhejiang University report.

“Even if you erase the app in the phone, or even erase and reinstall all software the fingerprint still stays inherent,” Romit Roy Choudhury, the UI associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science who led the team, said in a press release. “That’s a serious threat.”

By analyzing data from the accelerometers from more than 100 devices, the team was able to determine that tiny differences in the data recorded by the accelerometers were unique to the sensor itself, rather than reflecting flaws or differences in materials or environment from a particular plant of production line.

It’s not even necessary to get that specific or interact that much with one smartphone to identify it as unique. In June 2013, researchers at Technical University of Dresden published a paper that said variations in the performance of the power amplifiers, oscillators, signal mixers, and other components of a cellphone radio transmitter leave patterns in the analog radio signal that become a uniquely identifiable pattern of errors after the signal is converted from analog to digital.

That makes it possible to identify and track individual phones passively by their radio “fingerprints” without doing anything but listen to it, and to identify a specific phone even if the SIM card has been replaced or its unique identifying numbers have been altered, according to Jakob Hasse, lead researcher for the paper, which was presented at an ACM Workshop.

“Our method does not send anything to the mobile phones. It works completely passively and just listens to the ongoing transmissions of a mobile phone — it cannot be detected,” Hasse told New Scientist.

I forget who and when I was telling the following story to recently but it is my understanding that during the Vietnam war we had technology that could hear the radio emissions from the ignition systems from trucks many miles away. And because of variations in the ignition systems, such as worn spark plugs, dirty points, etc. the operators of that equipment learned to identify individual trucks.

I think the lesson to be learned is that if you leak electromagnetic radiation you can be tracked.

I’ve stopped getting it

I got it earlier. It made sense earlier. It was predictable. In the fall of ’08 when a certain someone was promising to Fundamentally Transform America, and Spread The Wealth Around, it made sense that people began buying guns and ammo in huge quantities, bracing for a new round of restrictions or worse.

That was six years ago. That’s longer than the time between the attack on Pearl Harbor and the A-bombing of Nagasaki, with all the design, procurement, tooling, production and logistics efforts involved in fighting and winning a highly mechanized, all-out war over most of the planet.

So why is there still almost no powder or 10 mm bullets on the shelves?

Yes, I’m venting, and yes I’m sitting on the sidelines complaining while doing nothing about it.

You probably thought Nagant was the first…

…but here’s a revolver (a carbine in this case) patented in 1852, that wedged the cylinder against the barrel, to eliminate the cylinder gap while firing;

It was also a lever action of sorts.

It came to my attention in comments here.

Previously, the Colt’s “Root” model of 1855 was the earliest true revolving carbine I’d known. Although there were repeating flintlock rifles and carbines from much earlier which used a revolving cylinder, the cylinder in those was advanced by grabbing it with the hand and rotating it manually. The flint versions that I’ve seen had multiple priming pans and frizzens, so they would have been a bit dainty in handling.

Another interesting bit of trivia is that Colt’s had a fully enclosed frame revolver (meaning it had a solid top-strap) long before the Remington/Beals, but Colt’s didn’t bother using the idea for their famous Navy and Army models, and they continued making “open top” revolvers right up into the 1870s. To put it another way; there wasn’t really all that much difference in the open top design compared to the enclosed frame designs when using the relatively low pressure black powder charges typical in a handgun of the time.

And let it not be said that the American founders could not have foreseen the repeating rifle or pistol as a fighting weapon. Many veterans of the American Revolution survived well into the 1840s, ’50s and even ’60s, and they didn’t suddenly cry out, “Waaait a minute!– We never expected anything like THIS!!! We’d better re-write that there second amendment thingy, and right now too…!!!” The Colt Patterson revolver came out in 1836 (an “assault weapon” of its day if there ever was one) and I don’t believe anyone in the Supreme Court suddenly re-thought the whole thing about the right to keep and bear arms now that we had concealable, practical, multi-shot firearms. The Colt “Walker” which was far more powerful and fired a bigger and heavier bullet came out in 1847.

What we all knew- safety is job #3

From the Department of “Duh” comes this little Kiwi gem. Seems a researcher ran an experiment on playground rules and child development. Making things too safe, having too many rules, was bad all the way around. Safe=boring and they didn’t learn about natural consequences of acting like idiots.

As a father of two kids, one girl and one barbarian, I see them do things that make me cringe, but I also know they have fun, play hard, and learn fast when you give them a fair bit of rope. Bones heal, bruises are great for showing off to friends. I’m sure I’ve watched them do things that would make the Risk Management head of any school district stroke out. But the kids are the better and healthier for it, and their mom gets a break because she can’t bear to watch.

Hydraulic ram pump

A friend tried to describe it to me a year or so back, but his description didn’t make sense to me. When I saw the “hydraulic ram pump” for sale in the Lehman’s catalog it got my attention.

I’d call it a “reverberatory ram pump” but regardless; it is fascinating. You can google it yourself, or look it up on youtube. In short; it uses a larger flow volume by setting up a resonance to create pressure spikes that lift a smaller flow volume– No power input required beyond that of the kinetic & potential energy in flowing/falling water.

The design and construction is so simple that it could have been done in ancient Roman times. Though I have yet to look up its history, I’m guessing it’s development is much more recent than that.

There are other ways to skin that particular cat depending on the circumstances, but this one wins in the cool factor. What I also find interesting is the small scale on which some of these run. One of them on youtube shows a system running on little more than a trickle.


I just watch the video Uncle put up on January 1:

It’s an hour long which is why I just now got around to watching it. I suspect that only about 10%, at best, of software developers will understand all of it. Non software security people will grasp only 10% of the material.

I had to look up several terms and I stopped it many, many times to more closely examine the classified documents. I am very impressed with the technology the NSA has implemented. That is amazing stuff.

They have tools that can, literally, fly over your home or city from up to eight miles and away infect computers with spyware. That’s just one of hundreds of tools they have.

There was some very serious bad-ass stuff in there that I knew was possible, and actually implemented prototypes of, years ago. They have it perfected and massively deployed. Seeing that they have it deployed explains some things that always bothered me about some of the projects I worked on or was sort of associated with. It all makes a whole lot more sense now.

The NSA people should congratulated on the awesome technology they have developed and deployed and then they should be sent to the gulags.

Random thought of the day

Almost everyone knows that leaving the refrigerator door open in the summer doesn’t, on the whole, make your house cooler. But did you know that in the winter you could use your freezer to make ice, store it in the ice-house for summer use, and make more ice you would be using the refrigerator as a heat pump and warm the house? This would make more efficient use of the electricity for heating than if you used that same electricity to heat your home directly with an electric furnace or baseboard electric heat. Part of the heat comes from the electricity used to run the freezer and the rest of the heat comes from the water you put in the freezer. You remove heat from the water, causing it to freeze, put the heat into the air, which raises the temperature of the air.

Plus, when you use the ice you stored in the winter the next summer you save on your summer electric bill as well.

Yeah, I know. What a geek. That what you get when read the blog of someone who thought their thermodynamics class was fun.

New Product

It’s the UltiMAK model M15 optic mount for the Yugo/Serbian M92 (A.K.A. PAP) AK pistol.

There have been a lot of requests for this. The first batch went into anodizing today and should be shipping by next week.

As always; yes it’s slightly shorter than the original piston tube. Yes, it’s supposed to be that way. No, that won’t have any effect on carrier cycling whatsoever. Yes, it’s the very best place for a dot sight on your AK. It’s also the right place to mount a pistol scope. No, it doesn’t need to be removed for cleaning.

I won’t get into the issue of the utility of an AK pistol. Several of the guns I own don’t have much real utility in the strict, modern sense (the reproduction 1861 Colt Navy percussion revolver comes to mind). Then again, some people are SBRing the AK pistols, providing a sub-gun-sized, shouldered shooter with a lot more power (and muzzle blast) than a 9 mm or a 45, plus ammo and magazine compatibility with a regular AK carbine.

If you’re sans a zans for cans…

…then use your bare hands (from a man from different lands).

And he didn’t even cut himself. I could’ve benefitted from this knowledge a few times in the past. Much less messy than shooting it with a 10 mm pistol. I’ll have to try it of course, as soon as I get home tonight.

ETA; soup, vegetable and fruit cans, etc., are not made of tin. They’re made of high quality steel. The others, like regular beverage cans, are aluminum, but you knew that. I’m not sure where the term “tin can” came from originally. Maybe they were tin at some point, but the steel cans are soldered, i.e. “tinned”, and maybe it comes from that. If get interested enough I can always google it.

Tin is very weak compared to steel, and it isn’t magnetic. We do use a fair amount of tin in bullet casting of course, so I always keep some handy.

Open source maps on Garmin GPS?

I got a Garmin GPS for Christmas, a hand-held one ideal for backpacking. Pretty neat. But then I looked closer, and had a “what the hell?” moment. It has no topo maps. Not even regional low-res 100k maps. Nothing. A few political outlines, major roads, major water obstacles like Lake Washington. You have to buy topo maps as extras. I thought the whole point of a GPS was not to point at a spot in a blank area and say “you are here.” Heck, I can get that with pencil and paper, and know general direction with a compass.

So I went to the Garmin site. They want a hundred bucks for a Northwest 24k topo map. Another hundred for a CA/Nevada topo. Another hundred for “mountain west.” Another hundred for Alaska. Another hundred for 100k US. And so-on. Holy COW! If you get around much, you could easily spend far more on maps than on the GPS unit itself. The unit I received had been bought on sale; any two of those are more than the unit cost.

I dug around a little bit online, and there are some references to using open source (USGS, TIGER, or whatever) topo maps, but nothing very specific or detailed that seemed like the right path. Anyone know any good sourses for free open source 24k topo maps and directions for putting them onto Garmin handheld GPS units? If I can get pointed to some that look like they will work, I’ll try it and let readers know how it goes.