Monday, July 31, 2006


Ah, sweet defcon... Defcon is a hacker convention in Las Vegas, and consists of three days of speakers, demos, and fun.

You can pick up plenty of fun hacker goodies such as illegal-to-own-in-California lockpicks, and interesting books and DVDs. But the best thing to pick up there is information.

Defcon is the place to be for new exploits, software, and attack vectors. Ideas I picked up at Defcon last year lead me to the research that produced some of my best scripts. It's always fun to hear about a new way to use something that you've been using for years.

Innovative ideas, interesting information, and just plain fun; brought to you by Defcon.

See you there!

AR completion

When the Stag 2HL upper came in the mail, I immediately slapped it on the lower, only to find that I couldn't...

The front pivot pin slid into the upper, and snapped into place like butter, but the rear takedown pin would go about half way into the upper, and stop. I'd read about poor fitting uppers and lowers, and decided to go Stag all the way to prevent such malfunctions, clearly I'd failed.

I turned on my laptop and went searching. I found people with similar problems, who were easily able to resolve them... by remilling the lower... uh... no. Not only do I not have access to a mill, but if I had to send it to a shop, there was no way it would be back in time for the Victorville shoot! I wasn't panicking, there was a way out of this, and someone knew it. I posted to the calguns forum and quickly got a few replies with advice on how to go about fixing the issue.

The next day, I hit Osh, and picked up some metal sand-paper. Closer inspection of my upper revealed that the rear pin hole in the upper was too high by a few fractions of a millimeter. This caused the takedown pin to kant up as it passed through the upper pin hole, and not be able to exit the lower on the other side. So I spent some time with the sandpaper, and 30 minutes later, I could push in, and remove the pin without the aid of tools! Sweet. If only I could test it out before going to the shoot...

I didn't want to be one of those guys who shows up, and spends half the day working on his equipment to get it running when he should be enjoying himself. I also wanted to get it sighted in, but knew I wouldn't be able to manage that until the shoot. Oh well.

I'll just have to hope everything goes off smoothly!

Mistreating my XD

It was a quick stress test, and while I felt a little bad about it at the time, I know it was necessary now.

While in the desert, I opened the action, and poured sand into the pistol, making sure it got everywhere, then blew on it to get the excess off.

I slapped the mag back in, closed the action, and fired off 10, reloaded and fired off 10 more with no problem.

I felt odd about purposely mistreating one of my posessions, but now realize that testing reliability under extreme conditions is probably best done when the conditions aren't life threatening... So, do you trust your firearm in all conditions?

No pistols were harmed in the making of this post.
All pistols were cleaned shortly after use.

Choosing a shotgun

I've been in the market for a shotgun ever since I picked up my first handgun. The fact that the AR build came before the shotgun purchase was, I'm (kind of) sad to say, fun over function. But since my AR is now complete, my thoughts return to the ultimate implement of home defense; the room broom.

I knew a decent shotgun could be picked up for under $400, but that was just about all I knew. Some cursory searches revealed that the 870 is the most popular the weapon of choice, and weighing in at easily under $400, I knew I wouldn't need to pay a lot for the name.

A Rem 870 is almost too classic and ubiquitous not to buy, but I kept hearing about the Benelli Nova. The only notable differences (that I could find) are the improved sights on the Nova, and the use of polymer on the Nova. Though those points alone don't outweigh the 870's legendary stature.

Thinking about it now, maybe I'm giving too much credence to the legendary level of the 870. I DID pick up a newly developed XD over the "tried and true" reliability of the Glock (though barely). If newer is not automatically better, why should older be any different?

Correction on an earlier post

Whoops! Apparently my post Well, you DID save his life. But still... requires a correction! Click Here

Apparently the officer praised the citizen, and the CCW program, but added that if you are untrained, and don't know how to use a gun, don't get one. Well, the reporter decided that the only important part of what the officer said was the part the coincided with his personal views, and took the liberty of paraphrasing his quote out of context. Nice.

What anti-gun media bias???

"Recovered" Post about light posting

Work has been real hectic, and...

Bah! I lost my entire post! Fortunately, managed to save it. Rather, they managed to save the first 6 words of it... hell.

[insert post about how few posts there've been lately, and a promise to complete, and post many of the incomplete posts I've been working on here]

I would spend the time rewriting the post about how I will post more, but I'd rather spend the time actually posting more...

Lots of posts coming, including but not limited to; Victorville desert shoot, stress testing my XD-9, choosing a shotgun, Defcon, my completed AR, keeping from being tracked on the internet, DIY knife clips, looking at scout rifles, anime reviews, Chublogga's question, and much more...

Check back soon!

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Shootin' in Victorville

Man, that was awesome. I'll make a full post once I get the pictures...

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

SureFire selections

I'd heard for years about these amazing lights, but didn't really think I had enough need for a EDC flashlight.

It wasn't until I started hearing about the E1E Executing Elite that I started to pay attention. The thought of clipping an extremely light, extremely dependable, extremely bright light to my pocket and forgetting about it was something I could get behind.

As I did some research I found out just how incredibly tough these are, I realized that a flashlight of the proper size could double as a modest kubaton or fistload. With this in mind, I started looking at SureFire's product line only to find that they were ahead of me already.

The E2D executive defender. With the striking bezel the flashlight becomes a bit more than a modest kubaton. Additionally, I read about the use of light as a tool of disoriented to gain the upper hand or surprise opponents. (Important notes on that can be found here) The idea of temporarily blinding an opponent and following up with a fistloaded blow to the chin (for a quick KO), or a cutting strike to the forehead (for inflicting a non-life-threatening, but seemingly serious cut to the head) seemed fool proof.

The icing on the cake was that the flashlight was not an obvious self-defense tool, making it immune to restrictions on weapons. In courthouses, at schools, or on planes, you could have the upper hand. Though there is some grey area around items bearing aggressive lines similar to more intentional impact devices. But since those same aggressive lines also serve a function, it could be argued that you did not purchase the flashlight as a defense device. It could also be argued that other flash lights bear seemingly aggressive shapes/features that are intended to preserve regular function, and protect the light.

It's definitely next on my list.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Lax gun safety from the professionals

I went to the range last Sunday and found it busy as usual. I walked in and found both clerks busy with customers. One was getting someone signed up, the other seemed to be troubleshooting a Glock for a member. I was in no hurry, so I sat on the bench and waited.

I listened to the clerk explain to the owner that his Glock needed something or other on the guide rod, and he replaced the slide, and racked it a number of times to make sure the action was smooth. He then walked to the shelf behind him, and picked up a rag to clean off the oil-covered Glock. While he was walking to the shelf his finger was on the trigger, and the action of the pistol was closed. I wondered if he was de-cocking it by pulling the trigger. He picked up the rag, finger still on the trigger, and began cleaning the oil off of it. I was perturbed, and stared at him to catch eyes with him. He idly cleaned the pistol, finger still on the trigger, muzzle pointed down at about a 45 degree angle, and looked around the room. I pointed at the ceiling with my index finger, thinking he would immediately know what I meant, and correct himself. We caught eyes, and he looked at me for a moment and seemed confused as he continued to clean the pistol with his finger on the trigger. I began to pull the imaginary trigger with my index finger thinking he would surely understand the gesture. He didn't.

He stopped cleaning the pistol, and raised it slightly so it was pointed at me; "Uh, hi." Not wanting to believe that he was inadvertently pointing a gun at me with his finger on the trigger I just shook my head.

"Can I help you?"
"You can help me by not pointing that muzzle at me, and taking your finger off the trigger."

"What, this?" He said as he held the pistol up with the rag still draped over it. "My finger's off the trigger," He said as he removed the rag to reveal his finger, now off the trigger. "I wouldn't clean a loaded gun, I'm not an idiot." he joked. "Doesn't matter." I said, shaking my head again. "Hey," a bystander said jovially, trying to break the tension, "No one behind this counter is an idiot. Hah."

I looked away, sore that I'd been blown off, and the counter activities returned to normal. The other clerk walked out from behind the counter, and walked up to me.

"Shooting today?"
"Mind if I check this ammo?"
"Certainly." He stepped in, and picked up the box of ammo.
"Is this what I think it is?" He said, pointing to the side of the box.
"What?" I asked, leaning in to read what he was pointing at.
"I'm sorry about that." He said in a low voice.
"I've talked to him about it before..."
"Oh." I said realizing he didn't want the other clerk to hear. "Well, rules are rules for a reason."
"I know, but I gotta work with the guy..."
"I see."
"I'll get you signed in. Need any targets?"
"Ten number ones, please."
"Why don't I just give these to you, and you can give back whatever's left."

So, was I wrong to take the clerk's accident so seriously?

I sure don't think so.

Just because you're well trained in safe gun handling doesn't mean that the rules suddenly don't apply to you. Sure, once you're comfortable with the rules, and develop good handling skills, it gets to the point that you hardly have to think about it. But that shouldn't make you think that you are exempt from the rules or that you don't have to apologize for not being mindful of the rules (especially rule 1).

I was annoyed that the clerk played off his violation of the rules, but I was more upset that his co-worker knew it was wrong, and put up with it. What, it's not his problem? People are reluctant to point out faults in those they have common dealings with for fear that it will affect their relationship. While this may be acceptable in most cases, I think safe gun handling should never be one of those cases.

The bottom line is that accidents are called accidents for a reason.

Skilled or unskilled; young or old; this side of the counter or that; there is no excuse for lax firearm safety.

Dear Senator,

Dear Friend:

Californians know that a devastating earthquake could occur anywhere in the state at any time. And we also know that a major earthquake would cause hundreds or thousands of deaths, widespread homelessness, and massive property damage.

Although Californians are aware of these important facts, somehow the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) still do not seem to have gotten the message. Last September, I requested a copy of the FEMA disaster recovery plan for California. After several months, I was disappointed to receive a general reply outlining the things that might happen following a generic disaster.

Recently, following a new report from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography on the geologic stress that is present especially along the southern portions of the San Andreas Fault -- and the likelihood that a major earthquake is, in fact, overdue -- I again asked for a detailed plan for actions that would follow an earthquake. In a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, I have again requested a plan specific to California on the steps that would be taken in the immediate aftermath of an earthquake to respond to widespread destruction.

Sadly, it appears that little has changed at FEMA in the year following Hurricane Katrina. The agency appears to be woefully unprepared for an earthquake of major magnitude and the devastation that would follow in California. You can count on me to continue to demand a substantive plan that is designed to keep Californians safe in the days following an earthquake.


Barbara Boxer
United States Senator

Everyone saw how poorly FEMA did in New Orleans, are you really going to count on them? Saying, "Well, FEMA did such a good job with New Orleans, I figured they should handle southern California's disaster plan." after the big one hits isn't going to earn you any votes.

Everyone saw how supportive and helpful private companies like Walmart ( and Home Depot ( were, and how much time and money they and their employees donated. Contrast this with the amount of money FEMA took from my paycheck in taxes, and redistributed to the not-so-needy ( to rebuild ( their lives with big screen TVs and strip club visits. Not that I feel they would have benefitted from some free money, but if you think you can give $10,000 to a poor family to make them middle class; try it, and check back on them in a few months.

I did enjoy your last statement, "You can count on me to continue to demand a substantive plan..." I don't count on you to write letters. I can write letters! I count on you to take action and make people accountable! If you want me to vote for you (and I never have before), take action, and show us voters that you are taking action. After the big one hits, and people are left wondering who's to blame; you, shaking your head and pointing at FEMA is not really going to compel anyone to vote for you. The public doesn't trust FEMA, and the fact that you do, makes everyone wonder if you were paying attention.

You can start convincing me how hard you work, by showing me that law abiding citizens are not going to be disarmed by force ( and left defenseless ( from roaming gangs, rapists, and murderers, while the police are off trying to disarm other citizens as they were in Katrina. You could also show me where the government is given the power to take money from tax payers, and give it to people who chose not to be prepaired for natural disasters. The job of relief and aid is better left to the people who can do it well, like the Red Cross, and other charities, not a wasteful, unaccountable branch of the governement.

Earn my vote!


Saturday, July 22, 2006

Worth the thought.

ChuBlogga has an interesting question. One that is definitely worth the time and thought.

I'll reply once I've given it the time and thought the question deserves...

Friday, July 21, 2006

Well, you DID save his life. But still...

Grocery store employee stabs co-workers, is detained by civilian with gun (Note there's no mention of the gun in the story's title)

The attacker, chasing one victim into the store's parking lot, was subdued by Chris Cope, manager of a financial services office in the same small shopping center, Higgins said.

I wonder how many people saw what was going on, and were powerless to stop it? (Rather, THOUGHT they were powerless to stop it) Were these people resigned to simply watch this human be murdered?

"When he turned around and saw my pistol, he threw the knife away, put his hands up and got on the ground," Cope told The Associated Press. "He saw my gun and that was pretty much it."

Criminy, good thing. Had he been required to shoot this psychopath he may have been sued by his family.

Police arrived within minutes and took the attacker into custody.

emphasis mine
Within minutes eh? Well, I guess they were almost there in time, so we can't blame them for trying. I guess; unless you're bleeding to death from a slit throat in your own driveway...

So, it's an alright story about an honest, law abiding gun owner who quite possibly saved someone's life while the police were notably absent. But wait; what's this?

"We commend him," [officer] Higgins said. "But we don't encourage people to take that kind of risk. He could have been hurt."

Risk??? The kind of risk that quite possibly saved the life of that victim? So does that mean that they encourage people to watch powerlessly, and franticly hit redial on their 911 busy signal? I guess so, because the police had the situation completely under control. Oh wait, they weren't even there yet. Hmm...

Oh, but he could have been hurt! He could have been hurt?! What about the victim he saved?! I suspect that HE was in danger of being hurt.

"Well, I have a gun, and have the power to save that person from grave bodily harm, and stop this rampage; but what if I get hurt???"



"We are making an all-out assault on the Constitution of the United States which, thank God, will fail," said Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. source


Work related Haikus

"Please update ticket."
> I haven't done anything.
"Please work the ticket."

click, work, type, code; oh!
The battery's dead. What now?
lay, drift, sleep, snore; dream.

"Hey, your network's down!"
I appreciate your call;
Please leave a message.

mY <e>-mail ** [is] |n0t h1dden% D0t comb

I get sick of seeing peoples' feeble attempts to obfuscate their e-mail addresses.

wtf <AT> omgmail {D0t} com
bbq (at sign) spambotswillnevergetthis +dot+ c0m
rtfm {shift 2} omgpancakesdangerous [){}'][' org

Trust me; all these attempts are easily defeated by bots. I've written bots (NO, not spambots!) and these methods will do nothing to stop any coder who spent more than 15 minutes on his bot's e-mail finding abilities.

Were I more inclined, I'd provide some regex examples; but I'm neither inclined, nor keen on the idea of other bot writers using my tricks.

Instead I'll tell you a great way to avoid bots without murdering your e-mail address. The trick is to give the bots what they want; an e-mail address. (take out the "9") (take out the "q")

The thing with most bots, is that they will seek to encapsulate the e-mail address, as long as you leave corrections outside the address, most will miss it, and even more will be unable to process your instructions.

Make sure you use a valid character, a number or letter. Using a invalid character like a pound sign or star will make bots remove it. Also refrain from messing with the .com, it's an obvious fix for the bots.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

I admit to loving my Super Spork

It's easy to clean, it doesn't get dried food or sauce stuck between the prongs if left out dirty, it's inexpensive, it has a spoon that is actually usable, and a knife that is actually usable, and generally kicks the ass of every other form of silverware in the history of mankind. The best part? It comes in olive drab!

Available from CountyComm, of course!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Protect me from what I want

House approves online gambling ban

Who the hell do these people think they are?
Oh yeah, elitist, holier-than-thou, masters of the great unwashed masses.

"Gambling?! The peasants subjects citizens can't do that, they have no self-control!"
I think that's what the actual bill says... I suppose it's possible that some folks still haven't heard of Nevada.

So is ALL gambling immoral or is it just the gambling that takes place on the internet?

It seems that this legislation has roots in the increasing number of "young people" becoming addicted to internet gambling an going into debt. So, whenever people become addicted to something, just ban it? Or is this just about vices? And, since when did these guys become champions of the moral high-ground?!

The funny thing about vices, is that they aren't really a human invention (or a legislative one!), they're a religious one. A civilized society without any form of religion would develop its own kind of morals, but they would be very human; don't hurt others, don't take what's not yours, etc. But the idea the gambling is evil and prostitution is wrong, and homosexuality is satanic are all religious ideas.

While we have a moment, please allow me to get into the constitutionality here; there's none.
Ok, moving on...

So, are they really concerned about our eternal souls, or are they all just bitter because they're not getting a piece of the billions of dollars being spent on internet gambling? Spoil sports...

"I wanna play, guys!"
"No, we're playing."
"Fine! I'm taking my ball and going home so no one can play!"
"??? But, that's MY ball!"

But, lets give them the benefit of the doubt for a moment... (don't worry, it's just for argument's sake) They see so many people getting addicted to internet gambling, and going into debt, and feel that they should save us from ourselves. Their intentions may be noble, but they simply shouldn't have the power to wag their finger at us, and say "You'll poke your eye out!" Our parents told (or taught) us not to touch hot stoves, we didn't our "moral betters" to make it illegal to touch stoves to keep people from burning themselves.

That seems to be the problem with America now. We're so sheltered by parents and society and kept from doing "wrong" by laws that we don't make any mistakes growing up, and learn nothing.

People need to make mistakes to grow, if that mistake is getting addicted to online gambling, they will realize they've got a problem, and get help with their addiction, and learning from the experience.

Keeping the citizens of a society from learning from their mistakes by making the learning experiences illegal raises a personally crippled people, ignorant to the dangers of the world they live in.

The drug war is no different.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

There's that metal streak again...

Dragonforce - Through the Fire and the Flames Music Video

If you're probably not going to watch it, at least watch the close-up, insane guitar playing at time marker 3:25

Effective document destruction

Screw shredders!

Click for full size

Friday, July 14, 2006

DC Crime "Emergency"

So apparently some of those folks in their mansions are starting to realize that they aren't magically exempted from crime. Not that I'm making light, this is clearly a tragedy, but when a tragedy could have been avoided we need to focus on finding a solution.

Still, announcing a "crime emergency" seems a little odd. Maybe that's because the word "emergency" implies that something is suddenly happening. This HAS been happening and WILL continue to happen until something is done. But don't worry, the "Only Ones" are on the case...

"We try to prevent this from happening," Police Sgt. Scott Fear said. "We're going to reallocate our resources. We're going to see what improvements we can make."
Hey, well, they try to prevent these things. Close is close enough right? I guess; unless you're bleeding to death from a slit throat in your own driveway... If prevention was the name of the game then why did they already know where the assailants lived? "The officers did a great job," the chief said. "They played a hunch, and it turned out right." Hey, lets all pat ourselves on the back! We got him eh? No harm, no foul? I guess; unless you're bleeding to death from a slit throat in your own driveway...

But lets forget about all that (I'm sure they'd love us to), because they're going to reallocate resources. One question, if you allocate resources TO someplace, don't resources get allocated AWAY from others? "You got robbed WHERE? Ma'am, we can't police the entire place. Please try to get robbed at the Mall where there are more police." But I suppose that they just have limited resources. No, wait. They have the highest police/population ratio in the nation. Hmm. Got any other bright ideas? Oh crap, they do:

Police are asking Mall visitors to "be our eyes and ears," Fear said. "We're going to ask them to be vigilant." From AP article here.
Please excuse me a moment while I try to stop seeing red... Little bit more... Hmm, it looks as though I'm going to have to settle for a shade of pink.
For god's sake! Just say it! Just say, "We can't be everywhere!" Urge people to buy a gun! Oops. Guns are banned. Maybe a Stun-gun? Nope. Pepper spray? Yeah, Pepper spray! After you register to carry it. Good luck tourists... Maybe you should pick up a rape whistle before you visit.

Well, with so many law-abiding citizens being victimized why haven't the legislators realized that making laws against guns only stops people who obey the laws? I mean, they work there, they've got to see what's happening! Oh wait, they've got body guards armed with those evil assault weapons they hate so much. Well, they paid for them, so it's only fair right? Oh, wait, our taxes paid for them.

Disarming honest citizens is government assisted homicide. This is our fucking nation's capital, and you can't pause to look at a monument to our freedom without having to fear being shanked by some lowlife! DISGUSTING!

I don't even want to finish this. It's leaving a bad taste in my mouth.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Teh gun prawn

As promised...

Click any image for full size

Here's three quarters of my AR

Note the silver nut for the mag lock. Bloody California...

This is a picture from my nightstand. I rather like it only because years ago I took a picture of my desk cluttered with lots of junk. I've got to dig that picture up...

Bonus points to anyone who can correctly identify three or more knives

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

A Nation of Cowards

Op-Ed: A nation of Cowards - Jeffrey R. Snyder

More required reading... I know, sorry guys...

This is the uncompromising understanding reflected in the warning that America's gun owners will not go gently into that good, utopian night: "You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands." While liberals take this statement as evidence of the retrograde, violent nature of gun owners, we gun owners hope that liberals hold equally strong sentiments about their printing presses, word processors, and television cameras. The republic depends upon fervent devotion to all our fundamental rights.

...while people are encouraged to revel in their individuality and incalculable self-worth, the media and the law enforcement establishment continually advise us that, when confronted with the threat of lethal violence, we should not resist, but simply give the attacker what he wants. If the crime under consideration is rape, there is some notable waffling on this point, and the discussion quickly moves to how the woman can change her behavior to minimize the risk of rape, and the various ridiculous, non-lethal weapons she may acceptably carry, such as whistles, keys, mace or, that weapon which really sends shivers down a rapist's spine, the portable cellular phone.

Should you ever be the victim of an assault, a robbery, or a rape, you will find it very difficult to call the police while the act is in progress, even if you are carrying a portable cellular phone. Nevertheless, you might be interested to know how long it takes them to show up. Department of Justice statistics for 1991 show that, for all crimes of violence, only 28 percent of calls are responded to within five minutes. The idea that protection is a service people can call to have delivered and expect to receive in a timely fashion is often mocked by gun owners, who love to recite the challenge, "Call for a cop, call for an ambulance, and call for a pizza. See who shows up first."

(Emphasis added)

Monday, July 10, 2006

Tactical lights

The question of the use of tactical lights has been a point of contention among gun owners.

Some argue that the light is necessary for surprising a goblin and removing his use of darkness. Some argue that lights only tip your hand, and let the goblin know where to shoot. Some will even argue that you should just use a big mag-lite so it can also be used as a weapon. (!!!)

I hadn't made up my mind until I realized that taking a life is not something you should do when you only see a silhouette. Shooting a non-combatant or family member is not an acceptable trade-off for ANY ill effects of using a light when securing your home. Besides, rule 4 dictates that you be sure of your target, and it's one of the 4 for a reason.

I've decided that temporary use of the light is the best way to go. Momentarily shining it on an area you have not secured and then turning it off seems like a good way to keep intruders from seeing you coming, while being sure of your target.

I picked up a glock light for my XD service model last week for a good price and have enjoyed the slim profile, solid look, ease of use, and brightness. (Though the ideal would be a nice surefire, a cheap light now is better than an expensive light later)

With the glock light on the XD I've only had to adjust my grip slightly to allow me to use my supporting hand index finger to actuate the light temporarily or click it on.

I confess to being attracted to the appearances of the glock light over the Springfield offering (xtreme mini-light). I like how it adds to the lines on the XD. Picking something for looks is not something I'd be proud of doing, but since I'm not sacrificing function, the looks are just icing on the cake! Pics to follow.

Sick Satisfaction

Along with being semi-ambidextrous, I'm cross dominant. This means that I'm right hand dominant, and left eye dominant, so I aim a handgun from my right hand with my left eye. Like most cross dominant people, I shoot a rifle as though I'm left handed.

I didn't even know I would do that, the first time I was handed a rifle, I picked it up in my left hand, walked out, shot it left handed, and returned. When someone said, "I didn't know you shot left handed." I said "I do?" It was an odd experience...

Since I shoot rifles left handed, I plan on picking up a Stag-15 2HL (lefty) upper assembly for my AR. Drawn to the promise of no brass in the face, I couldn't resist.

I do, however, take a (slightly sick) satisfaction in the knowledge that the majority of the people who will shoot my AR WILL get some brass in the face. I suppose I just want to do my part to balance the world of lefties getting the brass in the face.

Take that righty!

Disposable digital camera hacking

Say hello to the Dakota Digital disposable camera

Please don't crack me open!

So the Dakota Digital folks are sitting around one day trying to figure out how to make more money, and they came up with this disposable digital camera.

People take pictures with it, and turn it in for "processing" when it's done. We plug it in, take the pictures off, give them to the owner, then erase the camera, repackage it, and sell it again! It's fool proof! No added cost of photo processing, we can reuse the cameras, and make lots of money.

Genius. Except that some people resent paying
for what could be dirt-cheap if it wasn't run by profiteering gluttons
. These people saw hardware that was built with capabilities that the manufacturer saw fit to debilitate and cripple in order to make more money off of it. They took a fully functional, inexpensive, reusable camera, and made it proprietary, made it single-use, and cranked down the amount of pictures it could take. If there's one thing hackers hate, it's not being able to use our own hardware.

So this fellow started reverse engineering (though there wasn't much to do to get basic functionality) the camera, and found the pinouts for the port on the side of the camera. He also wrote the windows drivers (the drivers already existed for linux). A new firmware for the camera broke the 25 picture limit, and many other hacks which add functionality to this $10 camera can be found around the internet, including the use of an old palm III cradle to connect to the camera.

After Ritz found out about this, they started releasing new versions of the camera with new firmwares and more reverse engineering protections. These same hackers have successfully broken many of these new firmwares and protections, and will continue to do so.

I've picked up two of these cameras, and have a cradle on the way (since my soldering skills suck!). Couldn't I have just bought a similar camera for almost the same total price? Yeah. But that's just not as cool.


Some may argue that the company is losing money if the people buying the cameras are not turning them in for processing. Well, I'm all for capitalism, but I'm also for helping businesses realize that their business models are becoming obsolete.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Make your own AK

Just add water!

About two months ago while doing some AR research, I found a site that seemed to indicate that you could make your own AK receiver. Which prompted the only rational reply one could expect of me;
"OMGWTFBBQ BIY AK?!?!!!111eleven"

I began researching the prospect to see what I would need to accomplish this task, but hit a bump in the road. While there was plenty of information on the web regarding the process; 90% of the information was 60% complete, and only covered 30% of the entire process anyway. did ya get that? :) I didn't doubt that I could find all the information I needed, I just knew it was going to take a bit longer.

So for weeks I searched, and clicked, and bookmarked, and sorted, and reviewed, and became more and more familiar with the process. But I still couldn't find an exhaustive guide on the process, start to finish. I knew that when I had the parts in front of me, things would make more sense, and I knew I had enough information to get by, but since I wasn't in much of a rush (I decided not to start before I finished my AR) I've been consolidating my findings and doing more focused research on more specific topics.

I'd love nothing more than to talk about my findings and share my resources, but feel compelled to wait until I've actually started the build. I'd hate to point someone towards information that was incomplete or misleading.

So! AK build HOWTO... Coming soon!

EDIT: Ye flippin' gods! Could this be...? The perfect tutorial???

Sheep, Wolves, and Sheepdogs

I wish I could have read this before posting on heros. A remarkable read.

Here is how the sheep and the sheepdog think differently. The sheep pretend the wolf will never come, but the sheepdog lives for that day. After the attacks on September 11, 2001, most of the sheep, that is, most citizens in America said, "Thank God I wasn't on one of those planes." The sheepdogs, the warriors, said, "Dear God, I wish I could have been on one of those planes. Maybe I could have made a difference." When you are truly transformed into a warrior and have truly invested yourself into warriorhood, you want to be there. You want to be able to make a difference.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Heroes run the other way

I've been thinking for some time about heroes, and have come to some conclusions.

Allow me to note early-on that I'm not talking about comic book superheroes. I don't think it very heroic to be a hero when there's no serious risk involved. An average, everyday cop who does his best is more heroic than any fool who flies at the speed of light, is impervious to bullets, and has "eye lazors." (But Batman rocks)

I'm talking about the everyday heroes who live their lives making the lives of others safer or better.

There are, of course, different kinds of heroes. Heroes who sacrifice their time to help others, heroes who sacrifice their safety to help others, and heroes who sacrifice their assets to help are worthy of this title.

I should note that some extra conditions apply for hero qualification.

  • What you give must be unconditional.
  • What you give must inconvenience you.
  • What you give must be a conscience decision.

I think these conditions are fair. You can't be a hero if you help someone because you expect a reward of some sort. What you give must be a sacrifice, donating $100 to the salvation army doesn't make you a hero; but having to eat instant soup for the rest of the month because of it, just might. People who accidentally foil an attack, or put themselves at perceived risk without knowing the situation should not accept the title of hero, though many do.
If anyone has any more good conditions, please let me know!

Academic definition of a hero, c/o
"A person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed his or her life"

Real world definition of a hero, c/o my dad (LA Sheriff):
"When people hear gunshots, see fires, or violence, they run away. The natural impulse is to want to be away from danger, and protect yourself. The funny thing is, policemen and firemen run the other way, towards the danger... People run because they're afraid for themselves. We run because we're afraid for other people." (paraphrased)

Heroes run the other way. Against all their better judgment, they run the other way. Against their fear of bodily harm, they run the other way. Against all natural instincts, they run the other way.

I think there's a special distinction for heroes who put their lives on the line for others, and they will be my focus.

Remember that these people are not just firemen or policemen, they're your friends and neighbors. People who go to work every day, and get stuck in traffic like the rest of us. People who, when someone calls for help, fly out the door (even if they can't literally). Some of these people may not have made the conscience decision to be heroes, some may not even think they are heroes, but when the time comes, they are. I suspect that most heroes are just hard wired that way; the idea of not helping people in need is instinctively bizarre to them. I think the rest of the heroes are charged with the task of being heroes, and permanently change the way they think to become those hard wired heroes.

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." - Edmund Burke

This means that everyone has the capacity to become a hero. Someone need only consider the possibility of being called upon, consider the actions they may be forced to take, consider what they may be forced to encounter, consider the danger involved, consider the repercussions, and make their decision.

Make your decision now, or soon. Don't wait until lives are on the line.

If you've decided that the risk is too great, no one can fault you for wishing to be safe. But please continue reading and stay prepared anyways, the next person who may need you to be their hero could be someone you care about.

If you've calculated the burden, and still decided that you would run the other way, you need only prepare yourself mentally, physically, and materially.

Consider different emergency situations, and how you would handle them. Take CPR and first aid lessons, and prepare yourself for what you might see in an emergency situation. Stay aware of your surroundings; which is the best way out of a building, what are the other exits, where did you see a fire extinguisher, etc. Use the internet to research skills you may need, and learn all you can. Change the way you think; your instincts may not agree with what your planned actions are, in times of stress you will revert to your basest instinct: self-preservation. Think about different situations and visualize yourself doing what needs to be done, retrain your brain.

Be capable of running a few miles, keep your stamina up, and make sure you are able to carry someone to safety. Develop muscle memory; in dangerous situations your body will not always be able to react the way you want to, practicing movements or actions will help your body react without thought in times of stress or danger.

Prepare for as many situations as you can. Always have a cell phone available. Keep first aid kits in your car and at your home. There are emergency hammers that can break the safety glass on a car window in the event of a vehicle fire. Keep a small fire extinguisher in your car. Always carry a sharp, reliable blade to cut people free from danger (seatbelts, clothing, shoelaces, and hair can get caught anywhere). Have a flash light available, and check the batteries on it every few months. Keep a length of sturdy rope or cord available. Consider applying for a permit to carry a gun to stop violent criminals from harming others. A little preparation can go a long way. Being unable to help someone because you didn't have a $10 tool in your car is a terrible feeling. We're tool-using animals, being empty handed in the world is dangerous!


So, why all the hero talk? There were a few situations that made me think about this, and made me make some decisions about myself.

While in Cancun, my girlfriend and I were sitting in our room talking about something unimportant, when I heard someone wailing faintly. I perked up and listened harder and heard someone sobbing, "help me..." I can remember very clearly exactly how it sounded; and it was instantly clear that the person calling was injured and in danger. I ran out the door and stopped to listen for another call to determine which way to run, after I determined the direction I ran down the hall, and in the process kicked off my sandals to run faster. When I got around a bend in the hall I ran into at least 5 other men intensely trying to locate the room the call was coming from. One man ran up and told us the room number that she called out earlier, we started pounding on the door yelling for the occupant to open up. We could hear the calls coming from inside the room. A big guy with dark hair turned to the group and said that we'd have to break it down, and someone from inside called that he'd open the door. He was wearing a towel and opened the door partially with the latch still on, as soon as his head appeared everyone started yelling that he'd better open the door, and he did. This guy looked like a pro-wrestler, muscles bulging out of every part of his body with long hair shaved on the sides, and pulled back into a pony tail; at this point I began to wonder if five guys was going to be enough to subdue him physically. He put his hands up and stepped back, saying that he didn't do anything (I'd learn later from someone else that he was bleeding from the head or neck). We pushed our way into the bathroom immediately adjacent to the front door, and found the woman in the corner wearing a towel, bleeding from the head and nose, crying. She was helped from the room, and into the hall where someone else consoled her. Security had been called, but had yet to arrive. I left after it was clear the situation was under control, and there were plenty of other people around.

My brother-in-law was also there, and we later talked about being proud that so many people ran to help someone in need. But I wondered if so many people would have come to help in a more everyday situation. He said that he thought he heard something, and was trying to figure out what it was when he heard someone in flip-flops running down the hall when he realized it was me; he said that he'd never forget that sound. I thought about it and figured that once he connected the moans with the sound of me running down the hall, he realized that someone urgently required help.

He probably said that he'd never forget it because it was the first time he'd been in a situation like that. This should not be unexpected, as many of us live in relative safety, and may not have experienced these kinds of events. It was the first time (that I recall) that I'd been in a situation like that, but I reacted in a manner that made me proud, and made me think about how people react to danger or calls for help

The other situation was more recent. I was in the apartment, cleaning my gun after a productive trip to the range with the windows open and shades drawn. I heard a one of those screams that you can't mistake, and before I knew it, had kicked the chair out from under me, and was out the door on the railing listening and looking around the courtyard. I could see some other people opening their shades to take a look around. After about 10 seconds of silence, I heard the same scream which, this time, ended in laughter and whooping. It seemed someone was getting overexcited about a sports game on television. I looked around again, and everyone looking outside had stopped. It was a false alarm, but I was surprised at how ready I was. (I was also glad I didn't try to assemble my gun or bring it out with me before assessing the situation!) This got me thinking about how many people would come to help if someone needed it. I became acutely aware that if that was not a false alarm, and someone really did need help, I could have been the only one on the scene. I began to think about how to prepare for something like that, and wondered if I could handle or stabilize the situation. I thought about domestic situations, which are ALWAYS thorny. In situations where the victim doesn't want to press charges or even accuse their attacker, I could be viewed as the attacker and threatened with legal action and jail. I thought about the possibility and began to waiver in my resolve, until I realized the alternative; having to live with the knowledge that I could have stopped something terrible from happening but did nothing.

I decided I would always run the other way.

It's not like I'm going to start wearing tights, or anything (though I've yet to decide on the cape), but I will strive to keep myself more prepared for situations.

Idiots with honors

I was recently reminded of an experience I had in a high school honors English course.

After the first semester of the first year spent in non-honors English I couldn't stand it; I was bored out of my skull, and when I saw what they were doing in honors, I joined the program. I had a lot of fun learning to explicate poetry and the classics because I found it genuinely interesting. What I didn't find genuine were the people attending the honors class.

They openly joked that they were just there to get it on their transcript, and joked privately about not knowing anything about the literature and that they just BS'ed their way through the essay or homework. "I just write down whatever she says, then stretch it out into 5 pages, and bam! Get an A." After I realized how many people there were doing just that, I made it a point to have a dissenting opinion. Where everyone (teacher included) found "X" I found "Y" (which was sometimes hard to prove, and wound up taking extra study time). I didn't care about any of those other idiots, and laughed to myself whenever I got a bad grade on a paper stating that my opinion on some literature was wrong (not my supporting evidence, just my opinion). I actively participated in the discussions (something the idiots rarely did after they ran out of the teacher's premade points), gave my opinions and evidence, but ignored my "peers" as much as I could.

On the second year I began to think I was being a little harsh, and thought I should give them a little more credit. Perhaps I was just being immature. I participated less in the discussions to get a feel for my classmates (some new). I mostly found them to be exactly the same. Whenever the discussion was getting flat I'd inject one of my ideas and step back, just to see what they could do with it (which was mostly nothing). While we were discussing Siddhartha, the conversation went flat, and I asked a question of my classmates and teacher; I asked about the Vasudeva character, and since he was enlightened, and his name carried the suffix "deva," I wondered if anyone knew if "vasu" had a connection with the river. They all (teacher included) stared at me blankly for at least 5 long seconds. I explained my question more; the Sanskrit etymology for "deva" was a kind of all-knowing divinity, an enlightened being, and since the character was enlightened the name seemed to fit, but I wanted to know if anyone was familiar with the etymology (Sanskrit or other) of "vasu," which I speculated carried a connection to the river since he was a ferryman. Absolute silence. I looked to the teacher for help, who, after realizing that she had the same blank stare her pupils did, quickly turned to the board and wrote down "Vasu: ?; Deva: divinity" and turned around with her teacher face back on. "So, does anyone have any thoughts on his question?" Perfect silence. They wouldn't even look at me. I got fed up, and said "You know, why don't I just research that myself..." and returned to ignoring everyone else in the class.

I was upset about it at the time, but later looked back on it fondly as the time I shut up all those idiots (and the teacher) who never missed an opportunity to hear themselves talk or appear smart. They simply had nothing to say.

Years later I spoke to someone from that class who asked me if I remembered that incident. He said that a few days before he was hanging out with some friends also from the class, and when talking about high school, one of them brought up the incident which they all remembered. He said that it made them realize that I wasn't faking it like everyone else, and that I was actually smart.

The Sanskrit prefix "Vasu" means to have desires or tendencies towards something.