Thursday, December 28, 2017

A Day at the Range

Mrs. Santa got me a gunsmith and cleaning kit, so i cleaned up two new pocket pistols and headed off to the range yesterday...

these are the (to my limited knowledge) least expensive .22LR models on the market, but shot surprisingly well w/no problems on 100-round checkouts out of the box...

i named the one on the left 'Feinstein' and the one on the right 'Pelosi':

i have to say, however, that my favorite carry is a North American Arms Sidewinder .22WMR in a boots 'n belt holster (carried in my pocket):

of course, nothing beats the improved Seecamp-clone, the North American Guardian .32 ACP:

the Guardian did a nice job on its first 150-round outing of Fiocchi redbox .32 ACP FMJ:

and did pretty good on point-shooting at 10 feet; i was able to 'walk' rounds in from the left - it seemed like i was pointing the barrel downwards, but actually wasn't!

and here's a day at the range (04/24/18); ran a 100 rounds of Armscor .22LR i scored ($0.05/round) in my HP22A (along with a 100 rounds of that crappy Federal bulk - don't ever buy it!), then put my  NAA Sidewinder to work with some US-made Fiocchi FMJ .22 wmr - i like the results at 15 feet:

Here's another day at the range using Kel-Tec's NiB model and 50 rounds of Geco FMJ:


Friday, December 22, 2017

WARNING: Federal Sells Defective Ammunition and is UNRESPONSIVE TO SAFETY REPORTS!!!

As an avid geek-with-guns, I enjoy plinking .22 shorts, LR, and mag rounds with a variety of revolvers and pistols.

I recently purchased a bulk ammo pack from Cabela's containing a number of boxes of Federal 'Premium' 36-grain copper-plated hollow-points in .22LR:

LOT 1SP259

I went to the range with my Smith 317, and much to my dismay, found that 2 out of 8 rounds were defective in three different ways:

failure to fire (most likely due to bad/no primer)
double-charged round (due to excessive propellant in the casing)

and worse:

under-charges (which resulted in a lodged bullet in my revolver!)

This was very disappointing. First, as you know, you cannot return purchased ammunition. Second, there's no way to get a refund without going through Federal's warranty policy, which is an involved process requiring you to call for an RMA, then packing up and sending the ammo back (expensive), and hoping for a refund.

I figured I could eat the cost, but I wanted to let Federal know about this lot because I could just imagine a youngster plinking with a rifle, then firing an over-charged round into a lodged bullet in a barrel (known as an obstruction)!

So I called Federal at 1-800-379-1732 at start of business on Nov. 20, 2017. The operator reported that 'no one was available, but a tech will return your call'

So I then called back at 12 noon the same day, and was told 'We're very busy, but will call back." I told that operator that my info was important concerning over-charged and under-charged rounds and stressed that I was worried.

I never got a call back. So thanks, Federal, for looking out for your customers. I certainly learned a good lesson and won't buy Federal ammo again.

By the way, I filed a notice with

"Thank you for using to submit your Report to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).  We received your Report No. 20171120-A4358-2147395237 on Monday, November 20, 2017."

So I hope that in the terrible chance someone does get hurt with this lot of ammo, there will be a record on file and a report of the lot number (I filed all pertinent info).

Federal: bad company, bad ammo, bad customer support, bad safety policies!

I also left a negative review about this ammo on Cabelas web site (as a registered customer), and guess what? Cabelas won't publish the review!

Not only that, but Cabelas is STILL SELLING the ammo! (as pictured above; could be a different lot, but who knows?).

Very disappointed in Cabelas as well.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Tofu With Black Bean - Hunan Style

This is one of my favorite Asian dishes: tofu with black bean over jasmine rice. After moving down to hurricane country in the near-Tropics I despaired of ever finding this dish (done wonderfully as 'Sauteed Tofu Hunan Style' by the Hunan Village restaurant in Arlington, Va.).

Then I found a local restaurant that produces a very acceptable version with bell pepper and onion. After savoring that meal, I had a 'smack the forehead' moment when I realized that I would be more than capable of making this dish at home!

My approach (where C=cup, T=tablespoon, t=teaspoon):

1. Mix 3/4C of chicken or vegetable broth with 1t sesame oil, 3T of rinsed black bean sauce (plain or garlic, both are salty!), 1/2t black pepper, 2oz white wine, 1t sweet soy (syrupy version, although you could use regular), and 1 level t of corn starch. You can add some red pepper flakes if you want your dish spicy.

2. Slice 1/2 sweet onion and 1/2 small bell pepper (red, yellow, green - your choice)

3. Cut about a third of block of extra firm tofu into 1/4" high by 3/4" wide by 1" long rectangles, then place on a couple paper towels to drain

4. Heat 2t of oil in a wok, then fry onions and pepper until onion is almost translucent, then add tofu

5. Fry until tofu almost starts to brown, then add bowl of broth mix and cook until slightly thickened

I love this dish!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Bosch Dieselgate Settlement - W00t!

Thanks, Bosch! We really appreciate the extra money. It has provided us with two new VHF Tri-band transceivers, small whip antennas, a new dive watch, and a few lunches and dinners this week!

We also look forward to more than $2,000 next year for our Phase 2 Emissions Modification payment!

And just today, we received our Phase II emissions modification letter:

And, not long after, we have finally received the last third of our payment from VW! This means that we have received more than $7,000 back on our purchase and that we acquired a 2015 VW diesel station wagon for $18,500 new - truly a wonderful deal!

We're going to drive the wheels off our wagen - it will just start to break in at the 50,000-mile mark, and many owners get more than 200,000 miles out of their vehicles.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Tips for Running Raspbian PIXEL on the Apple Macbook Air (2015 edition)

Great news! There is a GNU/Linux alternative to Mac OS X for older Macs, and i've finally found the right distro!

I've been able to create a viable alternative using Raspbian's PIXEL for my Macbook Air (2015 vintage) on a Samsung 64GB compact thumbdrive.

PIXEL 1.1 Dec 2016 w/md5sums

This is the *only* working distro with wifi, sound, printing, and persistence i've been able to put together for my little Apple notebook. I have tried a number of others - the only other one that comes close is a 64-bit version of Anti-X:

antiX for the Mac

(use the 64-bit version - the 32-bit version did NOT work for me!)

Live GNU/Linux distros are a great way to test before an install. However, the PIXEL distro at this point is only live - BUT, you can create a 'persistent' version on a USB boot stick (compact thumbdrive, sdhc in a carrier, etc.) by following the following directions:
 step-by-step to making a persistent USB boot stick

 Mousepad Tweak

Also, to make life nicer with the Macbook Air's trackpad, i created a file named (made executable by using chmod +x), containing:
/usr/bin/synclient TapButton1=1 TapButton2=3 TapButton3=2 ClickTime=1
The file is saved under /usr/local/bin - then in the file $HOME/.config/lxsession/LXDE-pi/autostart:

@lxpanel --profile LXDE-pi
@pcmanfm --desktop --profile LXDE-pi
@xscreensaver -no-splash

This will be used upon log in and provides:

1. button assignments
2. two-finger right-clicking
3. three-finger middle mouse button event
4. tap-to-click


Alas, the internal webcam/camera on the Macbook Air is not recognized. However, i plugged in an inexpensive Logitech C270, and it was recognized as /dev/video0 - which meant that it worked in VLC and Cheese. I have yet to explore video chat, aside from crashing firefox-esr when attempting a Facebook video chat (ain't gonna work - may try bumping up to the latest firefox outside of the Debian repos)

Even so, I am quite happy with PIXEL - best out-of-the-box experience!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Hubs 'N DACs

Having a lot of fun lately with some extra Raspberry Pi Zeros, some Zero hubs, and several DACs to build LAN-connected Internet radio and .mp3 players. I like the Zero footprint, and as you all know, the Raspberry Pi Zero and Zero W are great little computers that don't ding your wallet - by themselves.

But with no audio out and limited USB, you'll need to add a few items to your project if you want some tunage and connectivity. The Raspberry Pi Zero W handily provides wifi - a real bargain $10 computer that I predict will introduce many new products and a new standard in SBCs, but again, you'll need to add audio for any sound-related project. And if you want to host additional devices, such as thumb drives, mouse, or keyboard, you'll need some additional USB ports.

Audio Solutions

I suppose the cheapest way to get audio on the Zero is through a USB audio dongle. You can find these devices - which provide audio in and audio out connectors - everywhere for about a Lincoln (US$5). They work well with GNU/Linux, and most are C-Media devices easily recognized and configured for use by the kernel (gone are those terrible days of having to rebuild the kernel every time install a new sound card!)
The problem is that you will most likely still need the sound amplified in order to play music on your speakers. Some dongles offer mute buttons, and some speakers are USB powered, but then only offer physical controls for volume, bass, etc.

Getting your hands on an amplifier for a stereo speaker project is kinda easy. I have scavenged a number of small amplifier boards from 3V battery powered speakers found in thrift stores and at flea markets. You can also buy one of the boards Adafruit sells to interface with your Zero's audio output.

Digital-to-Analog-Converters, or DACs, come in several form factors and flavors for the Raspberry Pi family. I have several: Pimoroni's PHAT DAC, a PiZeroAudio DAC, and Adafruit's Speakerbonnet.

Zero Hubs

Getting additional USB ports onto your Zero can be accomplished by using a hub. Like cheap audio amps, I have also scavenged old 4-port dongle hubs for Zero projects, such as this FrankenZero, a complete Desktop computer with wifi, sound, and a VGA port:

Hardware developers have come up with some nice Zero-footprint hubs at a reasonable cost. Putting together some of the required bits for an audio project that will work well with speakers can be interesting! Here is a MakerSpot hub (highly recommended), with a Pimoroni PHAT DAC, and an Adafruit 7W audio amplifier - great sound out of this one:

Amplified sound is provided by the screw jacks on the side of the amp board, with power (5V) supplied by the Zero's GPIO bus. The DAC's output is drawn from its RCA connectors:

I've incorporated another hub, the new Hubpixed, which works with the rpi0 1.3 and W, and have an inexpensive DAC attached - note there is no amplifier! :
But my favorite solution is the Adafruit Stereo Speaker Bonnet, which has the DAC and amp on a single board, and also provides your RPi's i2c and power GPIO pins in a separate area on the board - brilliant! i have this board installed in a Western Digital PiDrive enclosure on an RPi3 - great sound out of this one!

Here are some tips and tricks with the speaker bonnet:

1. i have found that cutting a 4-pin Grove connector works great as a JST-4 plug - this makes hooking up stereo wires a lot easier or to route the stereo lines out to my RPi's enclosure

2. after a bit of research and command-line foo, i found the proper incantation to play video during Raspbian Pixel desktop sessions on an RPi3 and have the audio routed through the speaker bonnet (great sound!)

hint: vlc, as currently distributed, won't work! you must use omxplayer and you must specify the Alsa card number of the bonnet... for example:

omxplayer -b -o alsa:hw:0,0 ManBearPig.avi

(the -b option creates a black background in case your video is smaller than your desktop)

at some time i'm going to try to recompile vlc for hardware acceleration... i understand that v2.2.4 will build properly at this point in time...

3. typing the omxplayer command line works, but is a pain in the ass if you're kicking back on the couch and using a Logitech remote keyboard and mouse; in this case, you'll want to create an association using a right-click on a movie file in the pcmanfm (file manager) window:
you'll want to make sure that omxplayer is launched in a terminal, or you'll lose control of the program once the video starts playing (i.e., no volume control, pausing, or quitting); after you click 'OK' you will see the 'doit' option when you right-click your movie file - this is the easiest way for me to launch omxplayer without typing a command line.

tip: you'll need to create this custom launch option separately for .avi or .mp4 files - to save a hassle and time, rename your .mkv files to end in .avi (they're the same file internally - at least this has been my experience).

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

WD PiDrive Node Zero wireless Zero Upgrade!

Just snagged a WD PiDrive Node Zero from WD today! I had also ordered the enclosure.

 This nice little compact board comes with a 300GB WD USB drive *and* an RPi Zero!
 In just a couple minutes I extracted the RPi0 out of the node and installed a new RPi0W; extraction was a careful affair, but easily accomplished - the Zero is attached by its two micro-usb ports, but i had to first use an H1.3 security bit to remove the four screws holding the Zero in the add-on USB board (don't know why WD didn't use small Phillips heads)

i had previously configured a recent Raspbian Pixel distro on the RPi0W's sdhc, so i just kept it in and powered up the Node Zero.
My new little computer runs great! i use a 2.4A USB power supply... as a bonus:
- the WD Node Zero came with a micro->HDMI stubby cable (not needed, but nice to have)
- the WD Node Zero offers two USB ports (handy, but not necessary thanks to the new wifi capabilities
- the enclosure came with a small torx screwdriver!
- *and* i now have a spare Zero to play with!

Sunday, January 1, 2017


This page will document some of my shaving accessories. I did have a bit of a collection of straight razors at one time, but downsized about four years ago and sold most of them off. Nowadays I use vintage Gillette double-edged adjustable safety razors - much safer!

Here's a treasure given to me by my father-in-law: His 1960 gold-plated Gillette Toggle!
More razors will be added as I take pictures.