::::: : the wood : davidrobins.net

My name is David Robins: Christian, lead developer (resume), writer, photographer, runner, gun enthusiast, libertarian (voluntaryist), and student.
This is also my wife Honey Robins' site.

Christmas 2013 in WV

News ·Tuesday December 31, 2013 @ 08:12 EST (link)

We left for WV Tuesday night (17th); since the Tyco acquisition of Exacq, we have to use up all our vacation before the January 1, 2014 switch to Tyco's system, which fit fairly well with the plan to take two weeks for Christmas anyway. I had considered taking the Acura, but decided to leave it safe at home instead. We got in after midnight, and unloaded the car.

On Friday (19th) we went to The Char, a steak restaurant in Beckley, for Honey's birthday, and had cake afterwards at home in Mullens. Honey went Christmas shopping with Emily and her mother on Friday (she took the day off). I did some work from home; working on a parser generator for faster API catchup with the GUI client.

That night I also started building the Hedricks' Christmas gift: a media computer on which they could play Nintendo 64 games (emulated) and others, and watch some older shows (like Perfect Strangers), which we also provided. I bought all the components and we brought them with us: I went with microATX form factor, 8G RAM, a 1T HD, an AMD 3.4GHz (maybe 3.2?) FM2, HDMI of course, and a couple Xbox (compatible) controllers which I could map to the N64 buttons. I had a brief scare that the power supply was dead, but then I remembered the PS_ON pin had to be set high (borrowed a multimeter to check and then when I saw the pinout it came back to me). The case, a XON, was great with regard to fit and connections, except the supplied power cord was a dud, which was a shame because it had a flat head needed to keep it flush with the bottom where it attached. But it didn't look too bad with an alternate. I'll keep this brief since I plan to write more technical details on Code Visions, but I installed Arch Linux for the first time, which was mostly good (systemd took some getting used to), and decided to make XBMC the primary/default app, using Rom Collection Browser to run emulators (I had to put in a small fix for it, and write several small programs to help things along).

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On Christmas Day I opened up a nice pair of slippers to replace a pair that were giving up the ghost (holes and rubber falling off all over, despite gluing and stapling), a set of Sony headphones, and 6 more months of Sirius XM radio for the Acura (yes, including it was a good marketing ploy). Honey got some DS games and some clothes; Emily got a lot of clothes. Honey and mother both got Kindle Fires (mother had one, but Emily only let her use it occasionally).

We went over to papa's for Christmas dinner (early afternoon) later in the day. Emily's massive mound of mashed potatoes can be seen in the pictures.

We left on the 31st, in the morning, just before the snowpocalypse.

I introduced Emily to learn.code.org while we were there, and she was making good progress with it (so did Honey, earlier); she made it through the "hour of code" at least, which her school apparently didn't participate in.

Books finished: The Liberty Amendments, Focus, The Knight, Bring Me the Head of Prince Charming.

Thanksgiving II

News, Auto ·Sunday December 1, 2013 @ 21:14 EST (link)

Since we are close to both families again we get two Thanksgivings; one in Ontario and one in WV. Since we are lending my in-laws my 2000 Toyota Solara, I drove it up after work (leaving around 1630); Honey drove up during he day.

On Thursday we ate Thanksgiving dinner at Twin Falls resort state park, which put on a lovely spread.

Saturday we (Honey and I, Honey's mother, Emily, and her… friend… Josh) went to see Catching Fire, which was pretty decent, although in terms of pointing out the evils of present states rather than a hypothetical one probably didn't do much; the infringements were not subtle: more Star Wars than Brave New World or Nineteen Eighty-Four. On the other hand, American audiences tend to need to be hit over the head with these things, thanks to the wonderful government school system which produces such perfectly indoctrinated drones if parents aren't careful to substitute and supplement.

I had managed to get added to the right VPN groups, finally (the Tyco acquisition messed the network up good; some cameras still aren't responding and the evapi.exacq.com sample server is still not externally reachable, so I was able to check in and do some work on my parser generator ("OmniX"). I hope to work on it as a low priority item and have it ready for 2014 when we'll be doing more work with configuration through the API.

We headed back Sunday after church, leaving at 1230 and getting home around 1930 which only brief rest stop breaks.

Books finished: Callahan's Crosstime Saloon, Time Travelers Strictly Cash, The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night-Time.

Duracell corrodes Maglite, but P&G replaces it

News, Technical ·Saturday November 23, 2013 @ 13:10 EST (link)

I went to use one of my mini-Mags recently and found that the Duracell AA batteries I had put in it had corroded so badly that I could only get one of them out; the other one was irretrievably stuck, despite my efforts with various probing tools.

So I searched around and found that if you mail the item to Duracell, they'll fix or replace it; I found several hits on this, so it seemed more than just an Internet fable. On September 27, I sent it off first class with tracking (USPS 9114901123086544325620) to Durcell's warehouse (Duracell, Berkshire Corporate Park, Bethel, CT 06801, Attention: consumer department). Tracking showed that it did arrive; and I included a phone number, in case they wanted to tell me that they didn't do that any more, but didn't hear anything for about a month and a half. heard anything.

I had in fact given up; and was about to write about the poor experience here; but Honey checked the mail later today and found that we had a couple envelopes from Proctor & Gamble, Duracell's parent company. They had sent a $12 debit card to cover the damaged light (I had just added a new one to my cart on Amazon, and that covers it nicely) and a coupon to replace the batteries. I've heard around the 'net that Energizer don't have these issues, but I'm willing to give Duracell another shot (checking them more frequently) since I can replace them for free.

Books finished: I Am a Strange Loop.

Honey's cooking holiday in Canada

News ·Friday November 22, 2013 @ 13:59 EST (link)

Honey was gone this week (Monday to Friday) up to my folks in Canada, to visit with and learn to cook some English dishes (shepherd's pie, trifle) with my mother. She had a pretty good time, and brought back some samples.

A joystick, a trackball, and a gaming mouse

News, Technical, Media ·Tuesday November 12, 2013 @ 01:38 EST (link)

A couple days ago, I bought a Logitech "Extreme 3D Pro" joystick; I'd "re-discovered" the '80s game TIE Fighter through some play-throughs on YouTube, but it was really painful with my Bluetooth laptop mouse, so I decided to go look for a joystick and bought one at Fry's. But when I tried it out it was still difficult to fly accurately. I figured I'd give it some time, but also try out a trackball and a gaming mouse, which I'd seen at the store and online when I was looking around. Based on reviews, I selected the Kensington SlimBlade trackball and Logitech G400s gaming mouse.

The Kensington SlimBlade was a beautiful device but the software and site left much to be desired. First, the slimblade.com site advertised on all the packaging materials just redirected to the Kensington main page. Downloading the drivers was a terrible pain; there was a download button on the page for the trackball that I eventually found, but it didn't actually do anything. I had to search the site with Google to find the correct download. Then, when I found the file, it wouldn't install—aborted half-way through. I eventually found it needed to be run as administrator; it didn't know enough to provide a manifest for elevation. Then it worked fairly well.

The Logitech mouse was easy to install, although the packaging was a bit convoluted, and it had some nice software to configure the many buttons to emit equivalent keypresses. Oddly, it came with some weights that could be inserted to modify the weight of the mouse. I guess that's a high-end gamer thing, since it didn't make much difference to me.

As it turned out, I ended up getting better with the joystick and decided to keep it and return the other two (very no-hassle at Fry's; although since they unpacked everything, which is reasonable, I needn't have went to the trouble to put it all back as it came). Part of the trick seemed to be not moving the joystick to the extreme upper left/lower right during calibration, but just a little way; that made control easier.

New Glock 19

News, Guns ·Saturday October 26, 2013 @ 13:56 EDT (link)

I bought a new (generation 4) Glock 19, which is a compact 9mm, just a little smaller than the standard Glock 17 which itself is smaller than the extended-slide Glock 34 that I had and would typically carry (in a Blackhawk Serpa retention belt holster, although usually under a sweater or coat rather than open). The long slide on the G34 would usually extend beyond my coat or sweater so I wanted something a little smaller that wouldn't.

I took the Glock to my range (ACC) and it performed well as expected, shooting plates and paper both at about 10 yards.

Kimber Master Carry Custom

News, Guns ·Saturday October 19, 2013 @ 10:34 EDT (link)

I have had my Kimber Master Carry Custom for over a week now, but hadn't had the opportunity to shoot it; either I got home too late (takes 35 minutes to get to ACC, and they close at sundown) or something else was going on. I should note that I bought it from The Foxhole Guns and Archery in Georgia, via GunBroker, and had it transferred via U.S. Defense Solutions, a small but well-stocked dealer south of Indiana (with $15 FFL transfers). I picked up an extra magazine (Wilson Combat) and a .45 bore snake from them to tide me over until my .45 jag arrived from Amazon. Since this is my first .45, I had no .45-specific cleaning gear. I also bought 400 rounds of .45 at a gun show (200 rounds Federal, 200 rounds hand-loaded by Jim Waldrip).

I got out to shoot it for the first time yesterday; I had already disassembled and reassembled it (the barrel bushing trick is strange) and made sure it was in shooting shape. I shot several paper targets at 30 feet, and it performed excellent well, and then went over to the bay with steel targets and dispatched them handily, one round apiece. When picking up my brass, I couldn't find a few but I found a few extras next by the plate rack that made up for it.

It kicks a little more than 9mm, but certainly manageable (as it ought to be in a full-size metal 1911). Trigger is very crisp; I love it. I was shooting the hand-loads, and had no problems with them. I only shot about 50 rounds; I want to clean it reasonably frequently during the break-in period.

Books finished: The Golden Transcendence.

Canadian Thanksgiving; tricks of the border Nazis

News, Auto ·Tuesday October 15, 2013 @ 20:02 EDT (link)

We went up to my parents' in Canada for Canadian Thanksgiving, leaving Friday the 11th (had to run out on a demo that went overlong) and staying until the morning of Tuesday the 15th. (Since Canadian Thanksgiving isn't a recognized US holiday, understandably, I had to take a couple vacation days.) I drove the Acura up, since people wanted to see it. Very comfortable trip, and the XM radio is addictive: not having to find a new station every 100 miles or so is convenient.

Since (as my father-in-law reminded me) dealers tend to underfill tires for a smoother ride, and cold decreases pressure, my tire pressure alarms had been coming on as it got colder here in Indiana (rear passenger, which I filled) and in Canada (rear driver, filled while there). At this point I had figured out what was going on (I really hoped it wasn't a leak already) and wasn't surprised to see the two front tires report low pressure on a cold day after we got back home.

I'm rather annoyed with the OED, although not them specifically, but the general mechanism of words being used and moving to dictionaries. I'm not objecting to language being dynamic; dictionaries should follow use; but rather the somewhat random delay between usage and documentation, although I expect (hope) that the OED at least has and tries to follow a documented process (much like the Jargon File, or New Hacker's Dictionary, does).

The border was not closed, but it seemed (from a sample size of one, plus comparison to a few previous trips) that they were at least conducting a slowdown; crossing Windsor to Detroit midday Tuesday had everyone (including trucks) down to a single lane and they asked a lot more questions than usual (e.g., how I got my citizenship). Going both ways, they asked me to roll down the rear window of my car. I think that's meant to be a quick "check if it's stolen and the driver doesn't know how to do basic things" heuristic, but it's not that hard and a legitimate owner might not yet know how to do that after a few weeks. I was asked the same thing several years back, when I had a rental car from Buffalo, and I didn't know, so they pulled me over and conducted a (relatively quick) search (turns out the window controls were in the central console, which I have never seen since).

We had a nice visit. On Saturday dad and I went looking at laptops for him (the family had managed to persuade him toward a laptop rather than a desktop), and Honey went with mom to run errands. We went to Thorold South Sunday morning (since they didn't have an evening service due to the holiday) (as an aside, I wish they would keep their name and not call the new place Rolling Meadows or whatever is that state planners are forcing them to name it), and Brockview in the evening, where we lucked into a fellowship hour. Attendance seems to be down there (about 40 people, but they really rattled around the large auditorium; it might have looked like normal attendance in Thorold South's smaller room, say), although at least the youth were fairly well represented.

We had thanksgiving dinner Monday; the traditional turkey, stuffing, and home-made cranberry sauce; delicious as usual (well, as in the past, at least; it had been some years since we'd been there, and since all of my siblings and I had been together for the day), and apple pie for dessert. It was good to see everybody, and we also celebrated Michael's birthday and got an (extended) family photograph in the back yard among the leaves.

Books finished: The Amber Spyglass.

ASIS 2013

News, Technical ·Tuesday September 24, 2013 @ 22:10 EDT (link)

Today I went to the ASIS 2103 security conference; Exacq chartered a bus up today (and Wednesday, so people had a choice), and some people (mainly sales and upper management, and some people involved in new projects) were there most of the week.

It was held at the McCormick center in Chicago (about four hours drive each way); the halls (A1 and A2) had a capacity (as advertised by the fire warning signs) of 20,020 (yes, twenty thousand and twenty). There were hundreds of exhibitors (and seminars, but we day trippers got free exhibit-only badges; no free bag, either). I grabbed a map and tried to be systematic about visiting all the booths, although it was easy to get turned around at the food court areas. Mike had his pedometer and figured he walked about four miles, so I probably did about the same, maybe more.

I picked up a lot of cloth bags, a couple screwdrivers, juggling/stress balls, tinfoil credit card holder, pens (everyone had pens, so here I could have standards…), a bottle opener key ring (Canon logo; maybe I should give it to my dad), some ties/badge holders, flashlights, cup holders, and managed to avoid literature except some pre-inserted into bags. We'll never need to use plastic shopping bags again. (Hey, it's my first conference of the type; I'm sure I won't bother much at the next one; and I actually stopped at each booth to learn what they did. Surprisingly many weren't obvious from what they had displayed.)

The bus left Exacq at 0730 and we left Chicago at probably around 1645 (all times Eastern, even though Chicago is in Central), although 1630 was advertised. We made a stop on the way for breakfast (Gatorade and trail mix) and on the way back (Wendy's, salad). I guess it was close to 2030 when I got home; long day.

Exacq's booth was a good size (with the smallest ones being 1x1, which is maybe 10' square?, it was a 2x2 and had no direct neighbors. We were also in other booths—Tyco's, of course, due to the acquisition (they had a 6x6 and a 6x5, both near the entrance, and were conference sponsors), and some of the camera makers: Samsung, Arecont, ACTi, Axis, etc. There was plenty of physical security gear (bullet-proof vests, security vehicles, including Segway and Cisco's mobile command center van, and Motorola had a technically equipped police car, and some security barriers), uniforms (5.11 was there too), network security, X-ray and other scanners.

Car care

News, Auto ·Tuesday September 24, 2013 @ 00:29 EDT (link)

My Meguiar's car care products (soap, wax, microfiber wash mitt and drying cloth—I read AcuraZine and other forums and went all out) and others items (bucket, grit guard) arrived in pieces the previous week; so I drove the Acura over to the apartment car-wash area (has a roof, couple hoses, vacuum, nearby drain). Well, it ain't rocket science; I tried to follow the Junkman's directions, but "sheeting" the water off the car and "drying with water" are a bit of a trick (especially with the hose nozzle attachment they had; I think I'll take it off next time, to use the basic hose, as he did, or maybe even get a quick-connect with a valve); I ended up with some water spots, mainly on top. The (electric to avoid smoke and fumes) leaf-blower idea is a good one too. Still looked a lot better after I was done. Should probably wax it to make it better proof against bugs and birds.

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