Thursday, April 3, 2014

Firearm countdown

One down!

I bought a Boberg XR9-L.  I did manage to avoid paying the extra $300 for the Platinum; while I think the Platinum looks better, Monika thinks it looks like Jay Leno -- don't ask me, I don't know where she got that from.  In any case, I have it now, and I can't wait to shoot it this weekend.

Here are some pictures.

It isn't as thin or small as I expected it to be.
However, it's smaller in all dimensions than my .380 Makarov, and (of course) the 4.2" barrel is much longer.

I love the weight and build.  The trigger is a bit scratchy; from what I've read, that'll smooth out after a few hundred rounds, or I can take it to Matt (awesome FFL -- if you're in the area, I highly recommend him) and have him smooth it out.  I've ordered the 6.5lb spring, because the factory spring is a bit heavy for me.  The cynic in me wonders if Arne didn't put the heavier spring it to get a few extra bucks because everybody's going to buy and install the lighter spring.  But that's not fair to Arne... bad cynic!  Bad!

I want the Trijicon sights, but have no justification for getting them right now.  I'd ordered an OWB holster from Old Faithful Holsters that I'm really excited to receive; that should ship next week.  Incidentally, Old Faithful responded within a day to a query; so far, their customer service has been good.

Matt had a 686 (one of the other handguns on my list), which he let me play with while filling out my background check paperwork.  That is one seriously gorgeous gun, and it's moved up to next on my list.  Honestly, if you think it looks good in pictures, it's 10x more beautiful in person.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

If Firefox deletes your life...

This is a quick-n-dirty how-to fixit for one particularly brain-dead Firefox bug.  It's two parts: the short term fix, and the long term fix.

This will only help you in case you encounter a particular version of the generally buggy Firefox session management.  In this version of the bug, you open Firefox one day to discover that all of your tabs (and tab groups) are gone. However, when you eventually do follow the breadcrumbs and find your sessionstore.js, you may notice that it's really small, while sessionstore.bak is much larger.  If this is the case, then you may be suffering from this annoying (and yet fixable) problem.

So, here's what you do when your tabs disappear.
  1. Exit Firefox.  Print this page, or open it in another browser, but get out of Firefox.
  2. Locate your sessionstore.js. This page tells you where to look for it.  
  3. Copy all of the sessionstore.* files somewhere safe, just in case.
  4. Check the file sizes.  If the backups are larger than the .js file, then you might be in luck.
  5. Make a copy of the most promising backup, and do a JSON pretty-print of it.  One tool that can help you do this is jsonpp.  Here's an online tool that does the same thing, if you don't care if the world sees your links or whatever.
  6. Scroll to the bottom of the file, and look around for a "windows" : [] structure.  If you find it, that's good news: you almost certainly have encountered this bug.
  7. Scroll to the top and look for a "_closedWindows" : [ structure (yes, I intentionally omitted the closing bracket).  If it has a whole bunch of things in its brackets, then move that content into the brackets of the "windows" structure.  Don't copy it, move it.  If you're using vim like an intelligent and sane person, then just do:
  8. Move this file to sessionstore.js in your profile directory (from where you got the original).
  9. Open Firefox.  Voila, your tabs and groups are restored.
Step two, the long term fix: stop using Firefox, and start using Chrome/Safari/Opera.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Firearms I would like to own

#1 Boberg XR9-L  (Bought!)

People are calling it a bullpup pistol, but it isn't; it just has a clever chambering mechanism.  It is designed to pull the bullet out of the magazine rearward on racking and push it into the chamber on return.  This allows the barrel to be an inch or so longer, because it can actually extend over the magazine.  On a small pistol, this can constitute a 30-50% longer barrel, which is not insignificant.  A longer barrel means more accuracy and power, and it's a fascinating idea.  It'll be my next handgun.

This is the platinum edition; it's $300 more than the two-tone, so despite being better-looking, I probably won't spring for it.  There's also a "shorty" version in which the barrel stops just at the front edge of the trigger guard.  I like the aesthetics of the -L more.

#2 Walther PPS

 I love Walthers.  I like the magazine release; I like the look; I like the quality.  They're just nice guns.  I wouldn't mind having the PPQ, either, but I really like how thin the PPS is, and the PPS comes in 10mm.

Walther PPS
Walther PPQ M1
Walther changed the magazine release on the PPQ M2, which saddens me, so if I get a PPQ it'll be the M1.

#3 FHN P90

I like bullpups, what can I say?  This is a neat little 5.7x28 SMG designed to be no longer than the width of a man's shoulders.  It's apparently very comfortable, has a clever magazine design, holds 50 rounds, and fires 900 RPM.  Case ejection is straight down.
The FN F2000 tactical version is a close second choice; even Hickox45 likes the rifle, which is saying something.  It's 5.56x45 and ejects forward like my Kel Tec RFB.  Only with a more wimpy round ;-).

#4 S&W 686 Plus

OMG.  This is, possibly, the most beautiful handgun, ever.  Seven rounds of .357 magnum.  What's not to love?

#5 M1 Garand

Just because. Grandpa Bright carried one in WWII, and uncle Dicky used it in Vietnam.  There's history there. Plus, it is also chambered in .308 (as well as .30-06), and I'm fond of the .308.
M1 Garand
M14, based on, and replaced, the M1
The M1 had a long and illustrious history, and had several variations.  I'd be happy to own any of them.

 #6 Winchester Model 66 

Uberti makes a replica of this lever rifle; they're pricey, but iconic.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Goodbye Apple

I'm going to try to avoid making this into a rant; I'm pretty irritated right now, though, so I apologize if some of that slips through.

Due to recent issues with a Macbook Pro, I (and my wife) will no longer be buying Apple products.  I used to advocate, gently, for Apple, but now I will agitate against them.  Mr. Cook, if you're reading this: Apple's NPS just went down by a small amount.  Given current Apple support policies, I doubt that you're concerned about NPS, but there it is.

So here's my story: I bought my first Macbook Pro, a 15", a few years ago.  Out of the store, it had problems.  The CDROM sounded, to be honest, like the DVD-ROM on an early model XBox 360 -- like a jet engine taking off.  I took it back the next day, and Apple gave me a new one; problem solved.  I didn't worry about it too much, although I did wonder how this got through Apple's quality assurance.  Over the next couple of years, I became quite fond of the platform, so much so that we bought my wife a Macbook Air, an iPod, and an iPhone.

After a while, the hard drive developed some bad sectors.  I worked around them for a while until the drive really started to degenerate, and by that time the Retina Macbooks were out; I was still loving OSX, and I like the slimmer form factor of the Retinas, so I chose to buy a new laptop instead of replacing the hard drive.  All was well and good for the next 14 months.  Note, carefully, that the Apple warranty is 12 months.  Queue ominous music.

So, up until recently, the Retina was rock-solid.  I almost never rebooted it.  It would stay up for, literally, months at a time, with simple suspends and resumes.  I loved it.

I'd turned off the nag-ware upgrade notices (BTW: super-annoying "feature," there, Apple), and I'd go check every once in a while to see what was available.  I was running 10.8.4 and 10.8.6 was available, and I had some downtime, so I decided to take the upgrade.

It was not happy.

10.8.6 got 99% of the way done, and then stuck there for, literally, 18 hours.  I was ready to hard-restart it myself the next morning when I came in and saw that it had shut itself down -- and it wouldn't start up after that. I could get it to the grey screen by various combinations of sequences (Shift-Alt-Apple, etc), but most often, the screen would just stay black.  To make a long story short, I left it at the Apple store and they called in a couple of days to tell me that they'd fixed it, and indeed, it seemed to be working again.

It worked for two days, and then the problems started happening.  The screen would blank unexpectedly and refuse to come on.  The computer would be running -- pressing the power button briefly would cause it to make the "bonk" sound -- but all I could do was hard-power it down and reboot.  Sometimes it would come back up, and sometimes I'd have to mess around with the magic power-on keys (the aforementioned various Apple-key sequences) to get it to come back up.  It would only stay running for a couple of hours at most before crashing; sometimes it'd reboot by itself, sometimes the screen would just blank, and sometimes I wouldn't be able to get it to come back on unless I let it sit overnight.

As soon as I had time (I live an hour away from the nearest Apple store), I took it back to them and explained, and demonstrated, the problem.  They took it back under their care, and this morning, I got a call from them telling me that I had to replace the main board to the tune of $310.

The tech tried to convince me that it was coincidental, or that the software exposed problems with the hardware; while both of these are possible, it is far more probable that (a) Apple's QA is incompetent, (b) Apple is using shit, cheap, low-quality hardware components, and/or (c) Apple's software developers did a crap job and released buggy software.  I've been in the computer industry myself on the software side for twenty years, and I know that the first defense of software developers is to blame the hardware, and -- surprise -- Apple can charge for hardware failures; they can't charge to fix bugs they introduce in their software.

Second, I didn't buy the extended warranty.  It is my opinion that I shouldn't have to buy an extended warranty for something like this.  This isn't a hard drive, it's not wear-and-tear -- it's the fucking motherboard.

What this all boils down to is the fact is that if Apple's hardware and QA is so crappy that they require multi-hundred-dollar repairs every year, then I do not want to do business with them.  I'm not spending two thousand dollars for a computer that breaks once a year; it's unacceptable, and unheard of anywhere else in the industry.  If I want commodity, crap hardware, I can get it for far less than from Apple.

The summary is this: I bought a Mac 14 months ago for $2,300.  Due to a software update, heavily pushed through nag-ware by Apple, it is now a brick.  Apple now wants to charge me $310 to fix what they broke. Consequently, these are the last Apple products I will buy, and I will discourage the purchase of Apple products with anybody I speak with.  We're all in this together, and I'm taking my responsibility to warn others about Apple very seriously.

Update 2013-12-06:
That failed hard drive in the older Macbook 15"?  I took it in to get it replaced recently, to gift it to a family member; I was pleasantly surprised that it was only going to cost $160.  That was a fairly painless transaction, except when I got the "repaired" Macbook back home, the trackpad didn't work.  It took me a few minutes to realize that there was a bulge under the right side of the pad which was distending it and causing the buttons to not function.  I thought this was due to an installation problem with the HD, so I took it back to the Apple store.  Surprisingly, they agreed to fix it without cost.  In the end, I was told that it wasn't related to the HD installation, but that the battery was swelling.  After scaring me at pick-up by telling me that it was a $610 charge, they decided to do it for free, so that one didn't end unhappily.  I wonder why the tech who replaced the hard drive didn't notice a swollen battery that was distending an aluminum case?

Regardless, all this did was justify my skepticism about the quality of Apple components -- this is the first laptop I've ever owned where the battery "swelled," and frankly, it makes me very nervous.  I don't want my crotch scorched some day by an exploding battery.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Rice cracker review #3

Tokuyo Mirin Yaki, Hosoda Bros. Inc.
This may be the winner so far.  It has excellent flavor.  The packaging and form is unfortunate; they're large-ish cakes, and in Philadelphia it's hard to keep them fresh once the package is open, and in any humidity they get sticky quickly.  So do little ones in a bowl, but somehow those are still easier to eat.  Anyway, for taste alone, these rank up there with the Kameda JFC crackers.  These have a more pronounced soy flavor than the Kameda; I'm not sure if the Kameda have any soy in them, to be honest.

As an aside, the Kameda crackers are becoming my go-to snacks.  While I didn't initially like that they're individually wrapped, I've found that it makes them very handy as snacks to take to work (for example).

Also, these larger crackers (both Tokuyo Marin Yaki and Kameda) make it easier to measure if you're counting calories.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Rice crackers, part deux

I know you're waiting, nay, poised, taught with anticipation, for my next rice cracker review.  We have three new kinds today.

Kaki no tane, from Uegaki Beika Co. LTD, Japan

I don't read Japanese, and I suspect that "kaki no tane" just means "rice cracker," and possibly not a specific kind of cracker.  In any case, these are the spicy moon or pepper-shaped crackers.  These are awesome; the MSG content is high, they're pleasantly spicy, and they have great flavor.  While spicy crackers are my least favorite kind of rice cracker, these are still very tasty and will be on my list to re-purchase.

Tenka-ichi ban, Hot Kid, Taiwan

This is another version of the sweet cookie-style rice cracker.  They're less sweet than the Bin-Bin cookies, but are otherwise very similar, coming in a large package of individually wrapped pairs of cookies.  As with the Bin-Bins, the flavor is nice, if a bit sweet for my taste.

Kameda, JFC Intl., Japan

These large, square, flat crackers are exceptionally good.  The soy flavor is less pronounced, so the saltiness stands out more (which is fine for me), and they have a nice MSG flavor.  They're fun to eat, and they're large enough to come individually wrapped -- in fact, they're larger than the Tenka-ichi ban and Bin-bin crackers; they're large enough to break into four bite-size pieces.  Very nice, although I find that I miss the pronounced soy flavor.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Rice crackers!

I love rice crackers.  I have a veritable passion for them.  One of the great sadnesses in my life has been the baseless, cruel attack on MSG by the health fascists.  MSG is good. MSG in rice crackers is good.  Rice crackers without MSG are an abomination.

Now, I admit I can be a bit slow sometimes, and I'll admit that it took me until a week ago to realize that in the age of the Interwebz, I could go online and find the forbidden MSG-laden rice-crackers.  A week later, and the goods have started to roll in, so I'm going to start a series of reviews.

Not all of these rice crackers have MSG.  Some didn't list their ingredients, and I ordered them just because they looked good and came from a company which sold other things containing MSG.

In my ratings, 5 really is "average." It means edible, worth the money if nothing better is available.

JFC, Nori Maki Arare
Rating: 5

No MSG; can be had at Wegmans.  Passable, but not outstanding.  They're the logs wrapped in seaweed, of which I'm fond.  The sodium content is reasonable, and they're flavorful despite not having MSG; their real selling point is the nori, so if you don't have a taste for seaweed, they're not worth it.  I'm going to use them as the baseline.


Pacific Mercantile CO, Hana Arare
Rating: 3

They talk the talk, but they don't walk the walk.  They look exactly like the crackers of old San Francisco Chinatown circa 1973, but I'll bet they have no MSG in them.  They are missing that distinctive zing, and the flavor is flat.  Not worth the carbohydrates.


Bin-Bin rice cracker
Rating: 6

A product of Thailand, these crackers come in individual plastic pouches and look for all the world like little cookies.  The flavor on these is nice, if a bit sweet for my taste.  I prefer savory, but if you like a sweet cracker, these are pretty nice, and have a good MSG flavor.

I still have about a dozen different products to go through, but I can only eat so many crackers in a sitting, so the rest will come in another post.  Stay tuned for more MSG, sodium-laden goodness!