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Archive for March, 2009

Add A Second Trunk Release Button to Foil Smash-n-Grab Thieves

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

I once had the displeasure of watching my coworker receive a phone call from his daughter telling him that her car had been broken into. She had been travelling with three friends in a large city for sightseeing and shopping. On the final morning they had checked out of their hotel room and gone to the local mall for a few hours before it was time to head home. Heeding her dad’s advice about keeping her valuables safe, she had the girls lock their cameras and laptops in the trunk with the luggage instead of leaving them in plain view in the cabin. The cabin was bare of anything remotely valuable when they left.

You can guess what happened. Someone apparently watched them move their bags to the trunk before going into the mall, smashed the driver’s side window, popped the trunk, and helped themselves to the contents. Three laptops, two DSLR cameras, a cell phone, and the luggage of all four girls was gone.

I sometimes store a computer or a firearm in the trunk of my car, so this bothered me greatly. Yes, part of the solution is not to be seen at your destination loading something into your trunk, but that’s not always practical.

I decided to add another button to my trunk release, so that both buttons must be pushed simultaneously in order to pop the trunk.

The concept is simple, and having heard it, you could probably figure out how to make it happen for yourself. Still, here’s pictures from my installation. The pictures are absolutely craptacular, as they were taken with my BlackBerry.

If you’re already into this sort of thing, this project will cost less than $5 and an hour of your time. You’ll need:

  • Two wires long enough to run from your trunk release button to your new button. I like to use pairs from cat5 cable for this sort of work. I picked the brown and brown/white pair. You may vary your color selection if you wish.
  • Button, button, who’s got the button? Any momentary pushbutton will do. I got a red one and a black one at Radio shack, $3 for the pair.
  • Scissors or a knife to strip wire.
  • Electrical tape and/or wire nuts.
  • Solder and soldering iron. Since this is in a car, a battery-operated soldering iron is preferred. You can use a traditional soldering iron with an extension cord, but make sure you’re using a heavy-gauge extension cord.

First, you’ll need to get to the wires behind your trunk release button. On my 1997 Mercury Sable, this is as simple as prying off the plastic cover around the button.

trunk01

You’ll be picking one of the wires, cutting it, and attaching both ends to your long wire. You only need to cut ONE of these wires! ONE! I suggest waiting until you have the wire in place before cutting anything, as there might not be much extra slack in this wire to prevent it from falling back into the body.

trunk02

I decided to mount my extra button with the sunroof controls, which are on the ceiling of the cabin above the rear-view mirror.

trunk03

How you hide your wire depends on your car, but it’s not as hard as you might think. Most cars are packed with flexible trim that can be pulled back to hide a wire. People who install car stereo equipment do this all the time.

trunk04

I was able to make my wire completely invisible to the user. Mission accomplished!

trunk05

Cut ONE of the wires going to the button that came with your car. Strip a half-inch off both ends of this wire that you’ve exposed, strip your new wires, and connect each of your new wires to one end of the factory wire. Twist together and tape. You don’t *have* to solder, but I prefer to make a really good connection so they won’t want to vibrate apart later. Remember that your car gets very warm, and that will have an impact on your electrical tape. This means that you can use the tape to keep metal apart that you don’t want to touch, but don’t use it to keep things physically together if you can avoid it.

trunk06

Even if you don’t solder anywhere else, you’ll need to solder now to connect your wire pair to your new button. This is how I mounted my button. I’ll note that if you get a small enough button, the diameter of it is small enough that you can skip the drill and just drive your hot soldering iron through the plastic to which you desire to mount it. I would never do such a reckless thing, of course.

trunk07

trunk08

Presto. If you press the red button, nothing happens. If you press the trunk release, nothing happens. If you press them both at once, the circuit is closed and the trunk pops open.

Alternately, you could completely remap your trunk release so that, in this case for example, the trunk release does nothing but the red button releases the trunk. I don’t recommend this for two reasons: First, anyone in your car who notices the strange button (kids?) will want to press it, opening your trunk. Second, many cars (like mine) will release the trunk even if you’re in gear and going 75 down the interstate. If If I’m trying to operate my sunroof, for example, I might accidentally press the button. As a second button, that wouldn’t do anything. As the only button, it will release the trunk lid. Bad juju.

Hope this has given you some good ideas. Obviously I can’t be held responsible if you monkey with the electrical system in your car and break it and/or yourself. Proceed with caution.

Plano Boxes at Sams

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

Sams recently started carrying Plano cases with wheels that are about the size of a footlocker. Price: $14.67 plus tax.

trunkbox1

trunkbox2

It fits suspiciously well into the trunk of my car, and fits all the crap I always have in there (trunk bag, blanket, toolbox, air compressor, socket set, crowbar). It is also not lost on me that an AR-length rifle would sit neatly inside.

They have two buckles on the front and one on each size. Everything is overbuilt and sturdy except the hinges. When the box is closed I’m pretty sure I could throw it down a flight of stairs full of rocks and it would survive. It has rollers on one side, but with no extending handle they aren’t practical to use unless the contents are heavy enough to merit crouching to pull the thing, or you are short enough that the side handle is at a natural position while walking.

And they have notches to stay lined up while stacked. I think I’m going to have to pick up half a dozen of these. They beat the ever-loving snot out of rubbermaids.

Two March 14 Holidays

Saturday, March 14th, 2009

Presented without comment.

pie

steak

My Desk

Monday, March 9th, 2009

Flickr gallery here.

Again, thanks to xyankeeworkshop for the plans. I’m enjoying the setup immensely.

desk03

Sleepwalking

Thursday, March 5th, 2009

Sometimes I wonder if I do things like this.

My wife tells me that I talk and do things in my sleep sometimes, especially when I’m not getting enough rest or I’m stressed out. On a few occassions last year I woke up to find that the shotgun I had leaned against the wall between my bed and the nightstand had been moved. Since then, I’ve always kept guns in the room, but just out of easy reach.

I also do things like turn on the lights in the room via the remote on my nightstand, or unplug my PDA and mash buttons on it. But at least I’m not likely to discharge a firearm in my sleep anymore.

Do you do stuff in your sleep?

This Was a Triumph

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

I’m making a note here: Huge success.

cake_003

It’s hard to overstate my satisfaction.

(Picture found at random on the internet. Unknown source.)

NSLU2 Dedicated IRC Gateway

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

nslu2

Ever since pdb started the channel, I’ve been sucked back into IRC, having been free of its wretched grasp since high school. It took me a while, however, to find a client that I liked. Back in the olden days I had a nagware version of mIRC which worked passably well for me, but that hasn’t been updated or streamlined at all in the intervening years and is starting to look a little dated. XChat which was built as a Linux desktop client but ported to Windows was nice most of the time, but had a few Windows glitches, as well as being mired in controversy because the author, intellectually speaking, is a thieving douchebag.

So I created a virtualized Linux system on my XP server/arcade cabinet machine, and after trying several clients, settled on irssi. This, combined with an SSH server, allows me to access my IRC client from any networked operating system, on any computer, anywhere that I can get net access. It is effortless. It also has the side benefit of keeping logs even when I’m away, which can yield hilarious results.

But running a virtual machine on a computer meant to play arcade games and serve up bittorrent is a pain. What I needed was a dedicated Linux box. What I didn’t need was a full-power computer sucking electricity and pooping heat just so I could run an IRC client.

Enter the NSLU2, a network device originally intended to serve up USB hard drives over the network. With a custom firmware, it can run a full Debian Linux system. At 233mhz with 32MB of RAM, it’s no beast, but for a single-function machine, it’s great. The best part? I measured the power use: 3 watts. Not bad for $50 on eBay and an hour’s work.

It’s *TINY*. The picture above seems to make it appear larger than it is. Maybe this will give you a better perspective of how tiny it is:

monitorpreview

That’s it, to the left of the monitors. I’ll blog about my monitor setup soon… I have some cables coming in this week that should allow me to tidy the whole arrangement up and make it semi-permenant.

In the mean time, if you want to get a similar box going, I can offer you some tips to make things easier. Just give me a buzz at whitebread@whitebreadonpatrol.com, or skype me at Whitebread_On_Patrol.

In the land of the blind…

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

…the one-eyed man is king.

7442fd5614828cb8c2a27993cb78c4d0

Lessons Learned from a Local Shooting

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

I received an email today from Rangemaster telling the story of a recent shooting involving one of their students:

After Action Report, Student Incident #48 Lilburn, GA, suburb of
Atlanta
Friday, 27 Feb 2009
B—– was at home, working, shortly after 5:00pm. Heard his doorbell
ring,ignored it. Heard someone knock on front door, ignored it and
continued working. Heard pounding on front door, armed himself and
went to investigate.
As he approached foyer, front door was kicked in and two adult male
subjects entered the home. B—– fired 7 rds from a Glock 38 at
BG#1, all 7 rds hit, subject down and DRT. As this was happening,
BG#2 turned and fled.
Police were called, they and DA office responded. B—– found to be
justified, no action taken. Police unable to find BG#2, however, BG’s
left a car on the scene. Police believe this was 5th-6th burglary of
the day for these two. Guns, TV’s, etc from several burglaries were
found in the BG’s car.
B—- checked in 3 days later. He is fine. Credits training with
getting him through this unhurt, successful in stopping the BG’s, and
mentally OK afterward.
Saturday, February 28, 2009

First off, great job by the homeowner. Scoring 7/7 hits under stress is certainly nothing to be ashamed of.

Two things I’d like to point out.

The world is not revolver-friendly.

(Credit to Unix-Jedi for the pithy motto.)

Seven shots fired with seven hits. It is reasonable to assume that, since the homeowner has been cleared of any wrongdoing, he did not shoot the bad guy once, then fire six rounds into his crumpled body. If the homeowner had been armed with a five or six-shot revolver, he presumably would have gone “click, click” for the last two shots which may or may not have been needed to stop the first guy. Assuming the first guy stopped afer five or six rounds, the homeowner would still be out of shooty goodness to bestow on the second bad guy. As it was, the Glock 38′s capacity of 8 + 1 left the homeowner with all of two rounds after part one of the fight. I’m not going to say that you’re unarmed if you carry a revolver or a single-stack pistol, but you need to be acutely aware of your limited ammunition. The email says the homeowner armed himself… I wonder if he thought to stick a magazine in his pocket?

Handguns Suck for Self-Defense.

The only reason we keep handguns around is because they are portable and concealable. Note that the Glock 38 is a .45 GAP handgun, and yet it took seven rounds to stop the bad guy. I’ve been subjected to rants from Rangemaster instructors at classes that the 9mm cartrige is the bare minimum adequate handgun round for self defense. What they should have been saying is that handguns in general are barely adequate for self-defense compared to, say, a shotgun or rifle. I have no problem with the homeowner in this case, but I’d like to call Rangemaster out on their silly distaste for any caliber not begining with 4. Had this shooting taken place with seven rounds of 9mm or even, gasp, .380, we undoubtedly would have heard a sermon about the puny Europellet. The lack of commentary about the number of rounds from a mighty .45 should give you pause when listening to caliber preaching.

Concealable Folding Submachine Gun

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

Found via Snowflakes in Hell and the Firearm Blog:

uc-tm

Chambered in 9mm and taking the inexpensive and plentiful 32-round Uzi magazines. Price from Full Auto Classics: $12,500. Those familiar with the sale of NFA items will understand that this is actually rather inexpensive for a transferable fully-automatic weapon.

I would really like to see newly-manufactured semi-automatic SBRs (Short-Barreled Rifles) of this sort of design. The process for acquiring an SBR in semi-auto is much less maddening, and there are myriad civilian and police applications for a short pistol-caliber carbine that you can store in a messenger bag.

Razors for Gamers?

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

Penny Arcade found this, which is a real thing that real people are actually trying to sell:

gamerrazer

Penny Arcade offers their view in text:

This has gotten out of hand.

Is there some disparity between gamer skin and human skin, other than its occasionally translucent, grub-like pallor? I think of myself an imaginative person, possessed of an ability to simulate human events with an accuracy so uncanny that men have called it prophecy. I part veils and shit.  But even with the entire universe suspended in the lattice of my intellect, I did not foresee gamer razors. I have begun to feel as though I am being acquired by a sophisticated targeting mechanism; I can feel its beams grazing my occasionally translucent, grub-like flesh.

and via comic.

Kel-Tec SU-16E

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

Oleg Volk has a wallpaper posted that alerts me to the latest Kel-Tec rifle, the SU-16E. The newest iteration of the SU-16 line of rifles has replaced the fixed stock with a “tactical” 6-position stock and has added a pistol grip, as well as handguards with a rail on the bottom:

su16ewallpaper

I see what they’re trying to do. They see the massive demand and shortage of supply for AR/AK type rifles, and are hoping to market the SU-16 as a low-cost alternative that takes AR-15 magazines and ammunition. They might well be able to pull that off.

I’ve been eyeing the SU-16B as an inexpensive and very portable (it folds in half) trunk gun, but one of the disadvantages of it is the lack of a place to mount a light:

keltec_su-16b

Thing is, I don’t need or want the pistol grip or collapsable stock (the fixed stocks allow for storage of a 20-round magazine on the gun, which is handy since the magazine well is inaccessible when the firearm is folded). If they would put the handguards on a rifle with a traditional stock and no pistol grip, they’d have a winner in my book.

On Gear Whoring

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

Les Jones pointed to a great rant from a former Gizmodo editor about how stupid people get over gadget lust.

Stop buying this crap. Just stop it. You don’t need it. Wait a year until the reviews come out and the other suckers too addicted to having the very latest and greatest buy it, put up a review, and have moved on to something else. Stop buying broken products and then shrugging your shoulders when it doesn’t do what it is supposed to. Stop buying products that serve any other master than you. Use older stuff that works. Make it yourself. Only buy new stuff from companies that have proven themselves good servants of their customers in the past. Complaining online about this stuff helps, but really, just stop buying it.

You want to know the punchline? The average Joe that makes up the market is smarter than you saps. The market-at-large waits until a clear leader emerges, then takes a modest plunge. You may think you’re making up the “bleeding edge” of “gadget pimpatude” but you’re really just a loose confederation of marks the consumer electronics industry uses as free market research and easy money. “Give me the latest version,” you coo, hiking up your skirt another inch over your exposed wallet. “Point Oh One upgrades make me so hot.”

Reading the whole thing would not be a waste of your time, especially if you can look on your shelf and see more than a couple of items that you just HAD to have when you discovered them, but now no longer use.

I used to have Gizmodo and several other tech sites in my RSS reader. I read them every day (often 50+ posts per day) under the guise of “staying current” with technology. What I was really doing was filling my head with gadget lust for things that I didn’t need. I would see some (actually pretty nifty) gadget that’s just come out, and get to thinking about it. The more I thought about it, the less the thoughts resembled “hey, cool!” and the more they started to sound like “I can probably afford to buy this next month.”

I browsed to Slickdeals.net every morning, and checked the “Hot Deals” forums. Often I would find truly stupendous deals on something, but even if I got it for 20% of retail and got some use out of it, it was still an item that I could have gone without.

In both cases I was willfully creating wants and desires in my mind that, far from helping me be “productive and connected”, caused me to be “broke and never satisfied”. I was exactly where the sales people wanted me.

I removed the gadget sites from my reader and the “deals” bookmarks from my web browser. I still browse for gadgets, but it’s usually prefaced by some need for functionality. The difference between what I’m doing now and what I’m doing before is that the origin of the “need” is from my daily living (“Boy, sure do wish I could x. I wonder if there is a product that will let me do that. Better yet, maybe there’s software or a cheap upgade that will enable what I’ve already got to fill the need.”) instead of from essentially a marketing syndication (Wow! New Shiny Thing 3.2 does y! I could use that!).

Les said:

I remember reading one of those futurist authors years ago predicing the accelerating surge of electronics. One of his conclusions was that technology would bring a lot of expensive temptations.

Absolutely spot-on. You’d be surprised how much brainpower you free up when you cease to be a gear whore. Not to mention the positive effects on your budget.

Obama Lied, The Economy Died

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

From Pocket-sized Spartan Superwoman Breda‘s Cleveland Tea Party Protest:

obamalied

That’s awesome. I feel that this sign will have a much greater impact in a couple of years.