Of Operating Systems

For weeks now, those of us who are lazy unfortunate enough to have been using Windows 8 have been looking forward to the first update, Windows 8.1. The upgrade was free, and the yes-men reviewers on the interwebtron have been crowing about how wwwwuuuuunnnnndddeeerrrrffffuuuuullll it is. And, hoo-boy! Let me tell you what! When I went to my laptop yesterday morning, it notified me that it had installed updates. Like a kid on Christmas morning, I thought maybe the OS fairy had updated my computer. But no. So, after pawing around the ‘net, trying to figure out how to install this thing, and after a couple hours futzing with it to convince it to download and install, I booted up into Microsoft’s latest creation. It was at least two hours, and seemed significantly longer, but regardless seems entirely too long for the download and install of some 3.5-ish gb of an OS upgrade. I seem to remember that I used to download and install a far more full-featured Debian system in a fraction of the time back in the day. Regardless, I started poking around at the new features. Perhaps this is worth a review.

Windows 8.1 gets a good solid ‘meh’ rating from me. Apparently the ‘.1’ means ‘NOW WITH START BUTTON! AGAIN!!!’ in Microsoft-speak. At one of my day jobs, I had a supervisor who had me log into one of their brand new laptops to complete some kind of work training program. He asked eagerly if I had yet used a Windows 7 machine, which I told him that I had not. He told me an overview of what my task was and to his surprise, I performed the action as he started to explain the steps, despite the fact that my M$ experience was only as recent as XP.

“I thought you said you hadn’t used 7 yet,” he noted incredulously.

“I haven’t,” I shrugged, “it’s just more Windows.”

Seriously. They didn’t label the ‘start’ button as such and the interface was slicker. It ran the same anyway. When I got my last laptop, it shipped with Vista. XP to Vista? Yawn. Vista was bloated and buggy, but otherwise basically a slicked-up XP. Vista to 7? The latter works better, but it’s mostly just an ironed out version of the former. The transition from 7 to 8, I was nervous about. For no good reason, I might add. I found that since I only run 8 in ‘desktop mode,’ it’s basically the same but without that button and a start screen instead of a start menu. I’m not sure what I expected from ‘.1,’ but I guess significantly more than the return of THE BUTTON. And, since this isn’t really long enough to be a stand-alone review of 8.1 (which looks like ‘B.J.’ at a glance), I may as well just rant on about the common operating systems in general.

Windows is like your basic white bread. Virtually nobody really likes it, and it’s not really worth what you pay for it, but it will make a sandwich for like 99% of the people and institutions out there. It’s relatively cheap and easy enough. Mac OS, on the other hand, is like the mass-produced baguette-bread you might get at some hipster coffee shop chain. It tastes marginally better than the M$ white bread, but it’s stupidly overpriced, and the people who habitually eat it think their farts don’t stink. If you use Mac OS, it doesn’t make you look nearly as cool and interesting as you think it does. So sorry. Linux is like all the ingredients you can buy at the grocery store to go home and bake your own bread. You stand there at the check out counter with your flour and eggs and whatever else goes into the recipe, stupidly grinning at the cashier with the anticipation of how delicious and healthy your bread will be when you get done with it. If you have acquired the knowledge and skills, and if you put in the time and effort, that’s going to be some dang fine bread for sure, made to your specifications. Most of us have neither the time nor patience for that nonsense. Even Ubuntu, arguably the easiest Linux distro is like getting the packet of ingredients that you mix up and throw in your breadmaker. I haven’t found it to be worth the effort for the returns.

So, I’ve been using M$ Windon’t variants. For a while, I did dilly dally with Linux, and still admire it as an OS, but it just takes far too much work to get to where I want it to be. My KDE desktop environment (meta redundancy deliberate) was prettier and faster than anything M$ or Mac available, on half the hardware. And then, I’d go and edit some config file, crash the thing, and wasn’t smart enough to fix it. Weeks of work down the drain and out a computer to boot. Pun much intended. There are even a couple of iThings in the house that we spent some time playing with in the past. We begrudgingly use Windows because the OS market kind of sucks. Either you’re a serious DIYer, or you buy from the box whichever of the big boy is the lesser of two evils.

Why isn’t there a basic, affordable organic market bread OS out there? It would be totally great if there was one that was as configurable as Linux, as robust as the more obscure ‘nixes, as easy as Windon’t or Mac OS, that would run basic programs, and would behave with whatever hardware combination out of the box. If Android was developed into something that most people would want to use on a desktop system, then maybe it might fill such a hole in the market. My guess is that it would be far more likely to just turn out like a clone of Mac OS or Ubuntu instead.

I guess the major take away from this rant is that operating systems pretty much suck in general. Hardware is gaining speed at an alarming rate, but the software isn’t reflecting that progress. We can look around and marvel at how sophisticated technology is, but without the software to back up the hardware, we’re spinning our wheels in the long run. A friend of mine was a programmer in the old days. His school classes taught him that the computers only had so many resources, so you had to program lean to stay usable. Then one day, this guy Bill Gates came by and said that all these computers had to be faster to run this new whiz-bang thing that he came up with. And, here we are.

Somebody out there, someone smarter than me, get off your butt and get to coding already.

p.s. – This morning, I had to restart the network card in order to connect under 8.1 this morning, just as I have routinely had to do under 8 point nothing. So many dazzling improvements…

Ammo Durability

Since I started my life with guns, I’ve been told by instructors, fellow shooters, and everyone in between that you must cycle out your carry ammo every few months. It was explained to me that temperature shifts and moisture that your carry ammunition is subjected to will destabilize the ammo, compromising its reliability.

Last fall, Teen Bot dropped a Ruger 22/45 magazine at the farm that was loaded with ten rounds of CCI Quiet. This magazine remained lost until Jennifer found it under some grass that one of my cousins had recently mowed. The magazine was dirty and rusty. I had my son clean it up at home, and then on a whim I dusted off the ammo that had come out of it, and loaded those same ten rounds back into the magazine. I really expected failures. Here’s the video:

Please do not in any way take this as advice to not change out your ammo. I am still a firm believer in keeping your carry ammo fresh. However, it makes me question the popular wisdom that you can’t get your ammo wet, and it will go bad if subjected to temperature swings. It was my understanding that centerfire ammunition is quite a bit more durable than rimfire. If this is the case, that 22/45 magazine has me questioning the reality of carry ammunition durability.

ProChrono Digital from Competition Electronics

Some time back, Brownell’s sent me a chronograph to review. Since we have rimfires and centerfires in the house, in long and hand format, as well as a few shotguns, bows, and Nerf and airsoft guns, we felt like we could put it though its paces. The unit that I received is the Competition Electronics ProChrono Digital. Priced at $119.95, I was a little skeptical at first. When the unit arrived, I appreciatively noted the mark on the box reading, “Made in America with Pride.” The packaging is a box sturdy enough for persistent storage and transportation. The unit has a plastic housing with an LCD readout and five control buttons. On the side, it has the power switch and a jack for the optional PC interface (not included, and not reviewed here as of yet). There is a 1/4×20 threaded brass escutcheon in the base for mounting it on a camera tripod and the battery compartment is big enough for two 9v batteries (also not included), although it only plugs into one to function, giving you convenient storage for a spare. The unit also came with guide wires, diffuser hoods, and operating instructions.

battery

Operation is very simple. Plug in the battery. Flip the power switch on. Shoot over the top of the unit. The diffuser hoods are required for sunny days. When I received the chronograph, it was raining heavily, so guns or archery were out of the question. So, we set it up on a camera tripod in the kitchen and shot Teen Bot’s Nerf gun over it. It is sensitive to speeds from 22 fps to 7000 fps, and the Nerf darts came in erratically between 30 and 60, with most of the readings coming in right around 40 fps. It had a little trouble with my airsoft pistol, but I have been told that these things typically don’t do so well with .22-cal pellets.

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I have used this in my back yard to measure arrow velocities, and the readings seem in line with the claims of the bow manufacturer. It has no trouble with .22lr ammunition through handgun or rifle, and has done well with all centerfire ammo we’ve put across it. I have used this to fine-tune my bow, analyze hand loads, and compare velocities between ammo brands and between barrel lengths for a common ammunition. I don’t have much reference to compare it against, but the readings come out consistently enough per launcher and projectile that I’m inclined to believe that it is accurate enough for most purposes. The only times we have gotten erratic readings have been when we were standing too close to the unit. It will store up to 99 readings in each of nine separate strings, even with the battery unplugged.

usa

Being such a relatively low-priced unit, I had assumed that there was something about it that lacked quality as compared to some of the more expensive ones. Because of this, I feared that it lacked durability, owing much to the plastic housing. I worried in vain. While set up at the farm, a sudden gust of wind violently toppled the tripod and the chronograph hit the ground hard. When we righted it, we found that it was still powered up, and still functioned normally. I wouldn’t recommend that you throw this unit around carelessly, but it is tougher than you might imagine. Here it is going down:

timber

This chronograph is very competitively priced, U.S. made, accurate, durable, conveniently portable, and easy to use. It will measure velocity of just about anything that can travel over the sensors and will store data for recording later. It’s a really neat piece of kit, and I honestly can’t imagine not having it at this point. If something should happen to it, I would gladly pay the $120 that Brownell’s charges for it. If you have ever considered purchasing a chronograph for personal use, I would highly recommend that you take a look at the ProChrono Digital.

FTC – this product was provided free of charge from Brownell’s for the purpose of review. They didn’t pay me to say it was good, but sent it to me to wring out and talk about.

Guns and Coffee?

I’m not going to bother linking to everyone in this post, but it seems like every gun blogger and his or her dog has weighed in on the non-committal letter from Starbutts concerning company policy on the carrying of guns. Here’s a link to the letter from the CEO, if you don’t have navel lint to gaze at or grass to watch growing, or sand to count, or any other more gainful thing to do with your time. Otherwise, I’ll summarize the new ‘policy’ for you:

Starbutts managment has decided that they don’t want to be a soapbox for the gun debate. They just want to sell bad coffee. They aren’t going to put up gun buster signs, and their “partners,” i.e. minimum-wage employees, won’t ask you to leave or refuse you service, but they would really prefer that you not come to their establishment armed. They won’t call the cops or anything, “but come on, guys! Please?”

In my home state, as well as many others, a business can put up a sign. If they don’t want guns in their establishment, they may post a sign that is “clearly visible at the entrance.” If you ignore this sign and enter anyway, you are not breaking the law anyway. If any worker at the establishment happens to notice your gun and if they then happen to give a trickle of whiz that you have ignored the sign, they may at that point ask you to vacate the premises. You still have not fallen afoul of the law if you turn heel at this point and find something better to do. If however, at this point you refuse to leave, they may call the police and you may be held liable for trespassing. In other words, there are a lot of ‘ifs’ to get through in order to make it illegal to carry a gun on private property here. What does that all mean for Starbutts and their new “policy” you might ask. Not so much as a hill of beans. Not even overpriced, former coffee beans that have the flavor completely roasted out of them.

And, what does this all mean to me? Just a little less than the aforementioned hill of tortured beans. I’ma tellya why too! Years ago, I started ordering my coffee beans online from these guys, mostly because none of the local groceries carried good coffee. CCM Coffee ships their coffee within 24-hours of roasting it, so it all tastes fresh and fantastic. You typically want to consume your coffee within a week or two of roasting it for the best flavor. For perspective, your typical canned coffee was roasted sometime since the Pleistocene. I only ordered a pound or two at a time because we couldn’t drink it before it went stale if I ordered it at higher quantities for a discount. Then, I started ordering green coffee beans in quantity, and home roasting in small volume to meet our coffee drinking needs. At this point, there’s a frou frou grocery store within walking distance of our home that has a couple dozen varieties of high-quality coffee (far better quality than Starbutts uses), reasonably priced; so I’ve pretty well fallen out of home roasting anymore.

The whole coffee beans go into a burr grinder, of which we have two (two is one, one is none). When it’s precisely ground to spec, it gets brewed with filtered water in our Briel Domus Uno espresso machine. Incidentally, Starbutts used to use good Briel machines, until they replaced them all with automatics once they found that a typical, minimum-wage barista can’t run a good machine reliably, even though I’m pretty sure I could train my Siamese to do it. Sometimes I’ll sweeten with a touch of raw agave nectar, and/or add a splash of milk, cold or steamed, depending on my mood. I usually drink it black. If you tell an average, knuckle-dragging barista that you want a double or triple shot of strait espresso, they will likely look at you like you just sprouted horns. Plus, I may or may not get dressed before I have my coffee. Try that at Starbutts!

Ten bucks will get you a pound of coffee that will make approximately fifty espresso shots, if I’m guestimating right. You won’t use a gallon of milk before it goes bad if this is all you do with it. A quart-sized bottle of agave nectar is about seven bucks and lasts me six months. Figure $.20 per shot on the beans and maybe a penny to sweeten your drink. Even if you go triple shot, with milk, you’re looking at well under a buck for a latte. Needless to say, I’m not spending money at coffee shops. Between equipment cost (~$300-$500 for a decent machine, plus ~$50 for a grinder) prorated over the years it will last (current setup here has been running fine for over five years so far) and expendable supplies (see above), it’s pennies on the dollar to brew at home as compared to going out for coffee. Plus, you get a far superior cup of joe.

Over the last few years, when the troops were rallied to support Starbutts for their refusal to ban us for our guns and to make up for their loss of business on the antis boycott, Jennifer and I would begrudgingly wander into the corner coffee shop and spend $20 on their crap as an act of solidarity. I can confidently say that Starbutts won’t be getting our $20 a year anymore. Boy, that’ll hurt! With the amounts I know other people are spending on coffee, and how those green and white signs seem to sprout out of the ground like weeds, they aren’t going to miss our $20, and we won’t miss their coffee. I know that some people are getting a little more worked up about this than others. I just don’t see it as much of an issue, one way or another, on any given level. Oh and, we’re still doing Kilted To Kick Cancer. Please take a minute and go donate here. Thanks you!

Otis

For a blog that purports to be a gun blog, there surely hasn’t been a whole lot of gun content here in a while. What are other things that we gun types are interested in?

No, I’m not talking about knives.

No, not flashlights either.

Not tactical pants.

Cleaning supplies! Because a clean gun is a happy gun. Right?

While Jennifer and I were at the NRA thing in Houston, we stopped by to say “hi” to the good people at Otis Technology. We left them with our contact info and let them know that we are both bloggers. When we returned home, I began to email back and forth with Heather at Otis, who was kind enough to provide some samples for review.

Case top

Thursday, FedUp dropped a box on my porch which contained Otis’ .22-.45 Pistol Cleaning System, their Optics Cleaning System, and their MSR/AR System. By a complicated turn of events, I wound up with a U.S.G.I. M-16 cleaning system some time back. Upon recent inspection, it is actually an Otis-branded system, although the contents of the kit are quite a bit different than the consumer system that came yesterday. I hope you’re as fascinated as I am when we talk about the details a little later.

Cases four

Each of these cases is about the size and shape of a hamburger. Jennifer tells me that they look like a travel make-up kit. These should throw into a range bag nicely and sit in a bottom corner of a pocket until you inevitably have a gun at the range that refuses to play nicely. Jennifer and I do have some dirty guns around here, so we should be able to give these things a bit of a workout. Additionally, my brother, Microcosm Overloard has a couple different Otis kits that we should be able to discuss here as well. I fully expect Jennifer to throw in her $.02 too. To start with, let’s take a quick peek at each of the four systems.

Handgun contents

The .22-.45 Pistol Cleaning System (part number FG-610 BX), contents pictured above, includes a .5-oz tube of cleaner/lube, a .38-cal and a .45-cal copper bore brush, a bore reflector/flag safety, cleaning patches, large and small slotted tips, bore obstruction tips, a T-handle bar, three bore cables in various sizes, and the instruction manual. Since the centerfire handguns that we shoot are in .38/.357, 9mm, .44 Magnum and .45 ACP, I expect that we’ll make full use of all the components in this kit.

Optics contents

The Optics System (part number FG-240 BX) contains a lens cloth, a book of lens tissues, a lens brush, anti-fog lens cleaning solution, cotton swabs, and instructions. We don’t do much in the way of gun optics in our household, but we are avid photographers. I do know of a few scopes that we can probably try these out on. What works to clean gun optics should do well for our camera lenses as well.

M16 07

The U.S.G.I. M16 cleaning kit comes with bore cables, a bore illuminator, patches, brushes (although not a proper AR15 chamber brush), various tools, solvent for both gun cleaning and optics, optics tissues, a lens brush, and an instructional CD rom. That is a three-inch CD, for perspective. I won’t make the claim that this kit is absolutely complete since I received it second hand. But, the original owner only used it a couple of times, so I assume he didn’t lose any components or add any extras. I didn’t realize that they issued optics on M16s, but this cleaning kit seems to suggest that they do.

AR15 08

The consumer MSR/AR cleaning system (part number FG-556-MSR BX) is a rather impressive kit including two bore cables, a pack of bore patches, two copper bore brushes and two combination bore brush swabs, bore illuminator/safety flag, CLP, a proper 5.56/.223 chamber brush, a rifle cleaning cloth, cleaning instructions, breakdown variations of all the standard brushes and pics, and the new for 2013 B.O.N.E. (Bolt Operational Necessary Equipment) tool. If this last tool scrapes carbon as effectively as they claim, I have a feeling we’re going to be good friends! I believe quite a few of these pieces should work well in our .22 rifles and pistols.

I will be the first to admit that many of our guns don’t get cleaned like they probably should. My rifle has junk in it that needs to be scraped out, and I’m unbelievably excited by that! I once ran my M&P45c without cleaning it to see how long it would take to stop functioning properly, and it eventually surprised me during pistol class by no longer locking back on an empty magazine. The round count was somewhere over 1,000. So yeah, we have some dirty guns to try this stuff out on. And, the MSR/AR kit and the pistol kit should clean everything we have in the house, up to our shotguns. In subsequent entries on these supplies, we’ll take a more in-depth look at each kit and clean some guns.

E-Tool

There are standard items that I keep in the back of whatever car I have. Among these items you will find bottled water, a knife of some kind, first aid kit, emergency blankets, and some basic tools. Many of my normal friends think I’m weird because in the trunk of the Tactical Assault Compact Sedan resides one of these:

Folding shovel 002

“Why in the world do you keep a shovel in your trunk?” they ask me, in much the same way they ask, “Why on earth do you always have a knife in your pocket?” when they need something cut or “Why do you carry a flashlight with you?” when the power goes out. These seem like rhetorical questions to me. “Why” indeed…

fireandshovel

I’m not the only one who sees these as essential gear. When we got everyone together for COGS 2013, it was cold and drizzly. On Saturday, some of our guests asked if they could start a fire behind the firing line. Not only did I endorse such actions, I pulled my trencher out of the trunk and put it to use. And, another one was produced from another trunk. With two people running these bad boys, you can have a nice sized fire pit in no time flat. When Jennifer and I go camping, we’ll often forget some piece of gear. We have left behind our air mattress or pillows, or had to run to town to grab a case of bottled water. But, the folding shovel is always in the car. There’s far more that you can do with these things than dig fire pits though. It is pretty well accepted that the U.S. G.I. E-tool makes a great weapon in hand-to-hand combat.

etool3

Indeed, with two sharpened edges on one side and two serrated edges on the other, not only will they handily cut through soil and hack through branches, they would be better than harsh words in a self-defense situation. Granted, if I was rushed by a dangerous animal in the woods, I’d rather drop the shovel and draw my .45, but failing that, I’d be glad for the shovel! A friend described to me how to use one of these as a stool to sit over a hole to poop in the woods. I couldn’t find a good diagram on how to work this, so I drew this crude* comic for an illustration:

e-tool poop stool

These things are compact. They will fit in the spare tire well with your spare, or in your jack storage. In a standard cab pickup, they take up virtually no space behind or under the seat. Currently, we only have the one car, but when we add a second and then a third when Teen Bot starts driving, they’ll get their own e-tools shortly after acquisition. Now, when anyone raises an eyebrow as to why I should have one of these in the trunk, my standard response is to ask them why they don’t have one in their car!

*Pun totally intended. I used to get in trouble for drawing stuff like this in school. Please pardon my crappy artwork. I know it kind of stinks. 😛

A Rossi? Really?

I have not been a fan of any of the products of the Taurus group in the past. Sorry, Gabe. I’m not hating. You’re gun is still cool. I have a dear friend who purchased a model 10 from a local pawn shop. It’s from the Bangor Punta era that we Smith fans are supposed to sneer at, but it is still a pretty sweet gun. Well… I have pined for a decent revolving carbine chambered in .357 Magnum. Or even better, .44 Magnum. And then…

croppedrevolver1

What? What do we have here?

croppedrevolver2

Umm… This appears to be a revolving carbine in .44 Magnum. In a bright blue. With walnut furniture.

croppedrevolver3

Yeah. We may just have to get one of these babies.

NRA 2013 – Thursday and Friday

Thursday, Jennifer and I got up early with the plan to pick up the rent-a-heap (as OldNFO calls it), with the intent of her taking our Compact Tactical Assault Sedan to work while I took the foster car home to load our junk, ready to drive once she got home from the office. She had a couple of loose ends to tie up before she could take off, but she was still planning to cut out early. The rental company jacked up our reservation and didn’t have our car by 7:30 as arranged. At that time, they offered excuses and said they could take a car to her office by nine. They didn’t have a compact, as we had booked, so they were going to upgrade us to a midsize. I dropped her off at work and took our CTAS home. At nine, she texted to let me know that the rental company had not yet delivered a car. She called and reamed them a new one, so they ‘upgraded’ us, once again, to a Dodge Avenger. Our original booking must have been for a two-door Speck with a three hamster engine. They got her the car at around 9:30, and we were on the road by ten. In all fairness, the rental company was extremely receptive to our multiple complaints and has made overtures to remedy the mishandling.

The drive was not terribly noteworthy, considering we drove through both Dallas and Houston. There weren’t too many situations in which I knew we were about to see some idiot cause a forty car pile-up because he was in such a hurry to rush up and tailgate the next driver in line or cut across four lanes of traffic with no signal, or both. Maybe I’m just growing patience with age. Thursday night, we met up with some of our friends for some Cajun food. Jennifer and I split a dozen oysters on ice, five pounds of crawfish, sausage, potatoes, and corn. Yum! Friday morning, we woke up at the butt crack of freaking dawn and headed down to the convention center. Parking was a veritable nightmare. If you don’t mind spending $30 to park your car for a day, it wasn’t bad at all, but that is extortion, IMHO.

The show was what I have come to expect out of a trade show. There were lots of pretties to handle and we got to meet many interesting people. Some of them are people that we have grown to know and respect online, others that we only knew by reputation prior to this weekend, and still others that were fresh introductions. Also, we had the opportunity to catch up with some old friends, if not nearly enough of them. But, that’s how these things go. It seems like no matter how much you try to pack into each day of the weekend, in the end you’re always short on time. Please do expect some pics and accounts of guns and gear, as well as more detailed stories, and it looks like we’ll have some extended test and evaluation stuff to look forward to. In the meantime, I’ll post some more updates tomorrow, and suffice it to say that it’s been an extraordinary trip so far.