Another Great Commercial

I’ve explained before that I love a good commercial. Uncreative commercials are boring at best and sometimes outright irritating, but when they are done right, they become a form of entertainment all of their own. When advertisement first hit YouTube heavily, I was not impressed. However in the current format, where you can opt to skip the commercial after the first fifteen seconds, it’s forced many marketers to step up their game. If they can sell you on the commercial in the first fifteen seconds, then you might just watch the rest. This approach causes the quality to come up overall. Check out this Totino’s commercial:

Classic! And, it’s holiday-appropriate too. To that end, do have a happy Halloween. Let’s get some kids all sugared up tonight!

Hmmmmm…

So, tomorrow is Halloween and Teen Bot is out of school on Friday. The excuse is ‘teacher training’ but methinks it’s just so the staff doesn’t have to deal with the sugar hangovers. Perhaps it’s so the teachers can sleep in after partying hard. It’s fine by me one way or another. We’ll let him sleep in to get through his candy coma. When he gets up he can work on whatever homework he has and then can start the weekend with his grandparents early. I’m kind of wishing that we had a party or something to go to. Then again, I don’t really have a costume put together, unlike some other people. I’m sure I could throw something together if something comes up. Sorry for the short post and lack of recent posts. I’ll try to rectify.

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.

An Open Letter to Grandma

Grandpa was so angry at my parents and aunt when they took his keys away. As you have recently said, he loved his little truck. Jennifer and I got it started on Saturday, and it has quickly become a part of our family. There was a wire coming from the starter relay that had a little over an inch missing. There were rodent droppings near the location, and I suspect something ate that piece of wire. I had my brother solder in a piece of wire to replace it, and it starts again. The engine was a quart or so low on oil, and I topped it up. The tires were running at 10 psi, and I aired them up to 35.

1395884_658440504190020_1597257720_n

As much as I love Grandpa’s truck, I think that Jennifer might love it even more. She drove it to her chiropractor appointment yesterday, and then she drove it to work this morning. When we borrowed the truck for a week last year when I rebuilt our Sentra, she wasn’t strong enough to man-handle the manual steering. She’s come a long way since then. Since Saturday, the little truck has been out to the farm already, and we’ve knocked the carbon off the valves.

1381590_660013464032724_953963070_n

We are planning to replace the bent body panels and missing driver’s side door handle. I’m not done wrenching on it and hope to get that odd starter issue ironed out. I’ve been looking for a used camper shell. I’d really like to build a platform that will stand 12 to 14 inches off the floor of the bed, that we can store stuff under and put an air mattress on top of it for when we camp. Once we have straight sheet metal and a bed cover on it, I’m thinking of painting the whole thing in bedliner. I don’t have a problem with the classic red, but the paint is quite worn, and I don’t presume that I’ll be able to color match the replacement body panels. I got a copy of the key, and Jennifer put the key on a miniature Bible keychain. That seems fitting.

582316_659201214113949_1132663362_n

I did a major cleaning on the interiors of both the car and truck yesterday. I chuckled at the various tools, gloves and rope that were scattered about the cab, so indicative of Grandpa. A couple lengths of rope were uselessly short, so they went to the garbage. I lovingly coiled up the rest of them and placed them behind the seat. There were a lot of candy wrappers in the cab. I had no idea that Grandpa had a sweet tooth. In the ash tray I found some folded papers. Upon closer inspection, it turned out to be three used targets, evidently shot with .22 caliber lead. Did Grandpa have some range sessions in his twilight years? If so, I wish he had invited me to join in.

1380193_660013497366054_78962015_n

We will cherish Grandpa’s pickup. I didn’t realize how badly I miss him until organizing his truck. He did love his little truck, and it was worthy of his affections. It is proving to be a real blessing to us in its utility, but it’s also wonderful to have it around as a reminder of the man who owned it before.

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.

canvas

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.

Jumping Spider

This one is for you, Rabid Alien.

DSCN8534

I found this guy on the front porch this afternoon.

DSCN8535

When I went in for the macros, he got a little camera shy.

DSCN8536

I’ve never known these creatures to be any kind of shy, but I might not appreciate a giant orange rectangle shoved in my face either.

DSCN8537

Once he felt like he was safe, he did turn around to observe, and I was able to photograph his face.

DSCN8545

The focus could have been better on that last one, but you can at least see his green jaws. It is probably about time to start thinking about a camera with more capabilities.

KTKC 2013 – The Day After

From September 1 through yesterday, September 30, whenever I was wearing clothing, I was wearing a kilt. I very literally spent September 2013 without wearing pants even once. Today, I wear jeans. Some of you stepped up to the challenge and helped me raise $705.00 for the Prostate Cancer Foundation. Thank you. Thanks to all of you for your generosity. The cumulative goal for this year’s drive was lofty, but my personal goal was admittedly unreasonably optimistic. And, I’d like to take a moment to talk about that.

I could point out the fact that this total is about a third of what came through my KTKC profile last year, but I’d rather point out that it is TEN TIMES what I raised in 2011. I’d like to pass out some virtual high-fives for that. I’ve had to carefully consider whether I will participate in KTKC 2014, but I keep coming back to an echoing yes in the hollow recesses of my brain. This year has been tough for a lot of folks, and I’m so proud that you all helped me out with your resources.

I’ve pretty well determined who is getting a holster named after them, but I have not yet contacted for details. You likely know who you are already and should expect an email from me shortly to sort out the details of the naming of the holster. I’m sorry I didn’t have more to offer in the way of prizes this year. We’ll try to step up our game for next year. To all of you who donated, I’m about to draw for the pauldrons. If you do NOT wish to receive them, please drop me an email and let me know to hold your name out of the drawing. Otherwise, you stand about a one in sixty chance of getting some delightfully random plate mail.

I’d like to take a moment to send congratulations to the top participants in this year’s drive. No, scratch that. I want to give a big congratulations to all involved, but especially the top participants. I hear rumors that in the cumulative three months of doing this, we’ve raised over $50,000 to benefit male-specific cancer. That’s not bad for a group of misfits and miscreants such as ourselves. In fact, that’s worth being proud of. Thanks again. Now, I’ve got to go prepare. We only have eleven months until KTKC, and I have some holsters to build!