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Concealed carry without a permit

Also known as “constitutional carry”, a number of States do not have a permit procedure to carry a firearm concealed. More States are now considering such allowances. The Washington Post recently reported on it, and said this:

The American public has recently been tilting toward gun rights; a Pew poll last month showed guns rights supporters pulling ahead of gun control supporters 52 to 46.

But Americans also want background checks, which permitless concealed-carry laws could do away with. A Quinnipac poll last year also showed that an overwhelming majority of voters, both Democrat and Republican, support background checks for all gun purchases. A similar majority would also bar people suffering from mental illness from purchasing guns.

“Permitless concealed carry” laws would not do away with background checks, since Federal law still requires an NICS check for every firearms purchase through a Federally-licensed (FFL) firearms dealer.

More States are pushing for “constitutional carry” simply to eliminate the ability for law enforcement to deny permits on faulty grounds. For example, after Illinois was basically forced by a Federal Court to allow concealed carry, the Illinois State Police just started denying permits without reason — and it appeared to be doing so to predominantly black applicants, even those without any criminal record or history of any kind. Part of that is due to Illinois being a “may issue” State, not a “shall issue” state like Missouri.

Speaking of Illinois, being arrested too many times — regardless of whether charges are actually pursued — can also disqualify you for a concealed weapons permit. And they can also deny a permit if they have “determined by a preponderance of the evidence that you pose a danger to yourself or others/are a threat to public safety“.

But beyond that, background checks for concealed carry permits tend to pull up things that don’t bar a person from actually possessing a gun. A person convicted of a felony as a juvenile who has had that record expunged may be able to obtain a firearm once they reach appropriate legal age (18 for long guns, 21 for pistols), but that previous record could come back to bite them when they apply for a concealed carry permit.

For example, one person wrote on the Expert Law forum detailing his experience in which a juvenile misdemeanor offense was used against him to deny him a permit:

My question involves criminal records for the state of: California

When I was 14yrs old I was arrested for fighting at school. I took a plea bargain as a infraction was fined 35.00 and given 2 day of work detail. I had my record sealed when I was 18 and have not been in trouble ever since. I have TS clearance in the military last done 2009. I am now 41 years old and have been denied my concealed weapons permit in the state of Georgia for a battery charge in a city (that doesn’t exist on the same date that I got into the fight in 1987. I called the county juvenile department and was told the records do not exist and would not have followed me as it was a infraction. I spoke to the probate court in Georgia they said they never seen anything quite like this before due to the fact that it only had a date and charge and had to deny the permit as a open case against me on file.

On the forum The High Road, a corrections officer in the State of Georgia found himself denied a permit due to clerical errors with the Court:

my so called terroristic threat charge from when I was sixteen (which was simply a cruel rumor started by classmates which is why it held no legal grounds) is still listed as a charge on my record. The probate judge who handles CCW’s did not have any info other than the actual charge on hand…..he had no information on what happened to the charge after it was filed almost 10 years ago. So I had to explain what happened and show him a peice of paper from the DA’s office that stated that the charge was dismissed almost as soon as it was written.

He was also charged with being a minor in possession of alcohol, which is a simple misdemeanor.

And YouTube user MrAk47master posted a video on March 4, 2011, showing the letter in which he was denied a concealed weapons permit by the prosecuting attorney’s office for Houghton County, Michigan, for a juvenile record in California that, under Michigan law, would’ve been a felonies if they were adjudicated in an adult court. The juvenile record does not prevent him from purchasing firearms.

So this is a person who was never convicted of a felony and so is not barred by Federal law from purchasing a firearm. His juvenile record does show he has misdemeanor convictions in the State of California. If he were an adult and those charges adjudicated in criminal court, as opposed to juvenile court, then they would’ve been felony-level charges under Michigan law (who knows what they would’ve been under California law), and Michigan used that to deny him a concealed weapons permit.

Now while a lot of people might say that such records should be disqualify someone from getting a concealed weapons permit, I must vehemently disagree.

You see in the United States we have this thing called “due process”. And under due process, you cannot refer to someone as a felon unless they have actually been convicted of a felony! The due process clause states, quite plainly, that you may not take away a person’s rights without due process of law. And before a person can be deprived under Federal law of their Second Amendment rights, they must be a felon, which, again, requires they be actually convicted on felony charges. And if the Court determines that a person’s juvenile record should be sealed, then that means it should not be used against them later in life — not as an impediment to obtaining a firearm, and not as an impediment to carrying that firearm.

But to gain the ability to legally carry a firearm concealed in public, we have to file application for what should be readily recognized as a right given the Second Amendment. And that application process operates on a “guilty unless a search comes back empty” premise. I’m sorry, but that’s not how it works.

And at the same time, a person who has not been convicted of a felony should not be denied a concealed carry permit simply because the charges on which a person was actually convicted would have been felony charges if the circumstances were a little different.

That is what “constitutional carry” laws prevent. A person who is legally able to purchase a pistol should be legally able to carry that pistol, concealed or open, without first having to apply to the government for permission to do so.

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Absinthe – Part XX

Contents: All articles in this series

Okay so for Valentine’s Day I bought my wife an R9 290X to replace her GTX 660 pair.

Previously I’d talked about going with a GTX 970, mainly because they are a little better than the R9 290X on performance while consuming a lot less power — as in one R9 290X uses about the same power as a pair of GTX 970s. So why did I not go that route? The 3.5GB memory limitation on what is advertised as a 4GB card.

While for most that memory limitation won’t make a difference, I know how my wife runs her system. For most people 8GB of RAM is more than enough. For my wife, it was barely breaking even, so she got bumped to 16GB, and so far she’s running smooth. It’s also why I water cooled her system: when I first built out the computer that would become Absinthe, I saw her taking massive advantage of the new power her system had, and the temperatures were getting me a little worried. In a way that shows that AMD makes good processors and ASRock and ASUS make good mainboards — she runs her computer pretty damn hard.

We’ve done Radeon’s in the past, and it was in Q4 2013 with a GT 620 that I bought the first “team green” nVidia card for my wife’s computer, which was originally built out in 2007 (AMD Athlon X2 with 4GB RAM). That would eventually get upgraded to the water cooled GTX 660 pair.

And now it’s a single R9 290X. Will it become a pair as well? We’ll see. But yes, #RAMgate is the reason I avoided the GTX 970. I did not want to chance that becoming an issue with how my wife can run her system. I don’t know if my wife is aware the GTX 970’s limitation. If she is, then she’d probably opt for the R9 290X as well and not chance the GTX 970.

So specifically the R9 290X I bought is the XFX “Double-D” model. Initially the card was installed into her system on Valentine’s Day while she was at work. It required modifying her loop in a couple important ways.

For one, an R9 290X is a full-length PCB, but the cooler on the XFX model extends beyond that by another inch or close to it. Contrast that with the relatively short PCB of the GTX 660, which is comparable to the GTX 970 — one of the other reasons I was considering that card. The longer card meant I needed to push her pump and reservoir over beyond the edge of the UN Z2 bracket to which it was mounted.

I also didn’t have a water block for it immediately. Even if I did, I wanted my wife stressing the card for a couple weeks before mounting the block. So to get the card in her system without throwing everything back on air, I just bypassed the graphics card and ran a piece of soft tubing from the bottom radiator to the top — this put her CPU on 7x120mm of radiator capacity. For the coolant, it was just distilled water.

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So that’s how she ran the system for two weeks. In the mean time, I looked around at blocks to decide which direction to go. In the end, going on an in-depth analysis I read online, I went with the AquaComputer KryoGraphics block with the backplate. The analysis showed the card to be the best overall block for the R9 290X. It tested to within 1C of the top performing block for GPU temperatures, which was Swiftech’s Komodo block, but the cooling of the VRMs with the backplate topped the list by a significant margin.

I ordered the block through Performance-PCs — with the recent FrozenCPU hiatus, they were the only stateside distributor. And they had one backplate and two of the blocks in stock when I ordered. The only other option would’ve been ordering directly from the manufacturer. It would’ve been a similar price, but would’ve included a nearly 2-week wait time before shipping. FrozenCPU had the block, but not the passive backplate.

The one thing I found rather intriguing is how the block is shipped vacuum packed:

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Unfortunately due to the washout from the flash, the full beauty of this block can’t really be made out, and I forgot to take pictures of the card with the block installed. The promotional picture on Aquacomputer’s site does it more justice anyway (see below). It’s a great looking block, and it was a relative breeze to install — but then I’ve had a bit of practice doing that. It’s also the only block I know of that has you use thermal compound on the memory chips instead of thermal pads. The backplate was also easy to install.

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Yes, that’s the Hawaii islands cut into the copper cold plate. It’s manufacturing detail that’s mostly wasted as well given that, in most builds, that face of the block will be toward the bottom of the case and not in ready sight.

Anyway, once I got the card installed, it was a matter of doing the rest of the loop.

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This wasn’t as easy as it sounds, merely because I kept overthinking some things.

First, in noticing how the pump and reservoir were barely held down with how I had them mounted, I thought the better idea would be to have it straddle two UN Z2 brackets in the middle of both of the 120mm fans on the bottom radiator. Only problem is having the Z2 bracket on the fan closest — actually directly underneath the front radiator — interfered with the front radiator and meant I couldn’t mount the front radiator. So scratch that idea.

So I thought I needed to separate the pump and reservoir and started exploring that idea. That introduced quite a few complications into the equation, and it wasn’t until my back was screaming at me from working on this all day that I realized something I should have hours earlier: removing the stock cooler shortened the graphics card by up to an inch. This meant that I could keep the pump and reservoir mounted to the bracket and held a bit more securely to it.

So I tried that idea — and it worked! — and went to bed, after having my wife try to get as many kinks out of my back as possible. I saved finishing the tubing and getting it filled for a leak test till the next day.

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Looking at that picture, you can probably see how it’s mounted at the edge of the bracket. It’s very similar to how I had it mounted in the initial Absinthe build, only on the opposite side of the bracket. It’s sturdy, held in place by two M4 bolts from underneath, and the tubing running from the CPU back to the top of the reservoir also helps keep it in place.

You can see off to the left of the pump the new run from the bottom radiator to the graphics card — just one giant 90-degree bent piece of copper tubing. And I went with another 45-degree bend to go from the graphics card to the top radiator.

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The windowed lid on the block makes it very easy to tell when there are large bubbles still trapped in the block. I was tilting the case to all kinds of different extremes to get the largest bubbles out of the block as I wanted those gone before I powered on the system.

And initial performance numbers from the block are certainly quite pleasing — ambient temperature was about 20C:

radeon

It topped out at 45C after running three cycles through Unigine Heaven. The stock cooler would top out in the lower 70s. On cold boot, it idled in the lower 30s — not unexpected given the hotter profile for the card. I expect temperatures may improve as the last of the air works its way out of the blocks and radiators, but it won’t be a significant improvement.

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On or off?

It’s a reasonable question to be asking: should you leave your computer on or turn it off every night? Recently Simon Hill of Digital Trends tackled this question, bringing in Steven Leslie from Geek Squad to assist.

The biggest argument for leaving your computer on constantly is that it is less damaging to your components in the long run. This is only partly true, and it’s based on what I’d considered a somewhat flawed observation. The time when a computer part is most likely to fail is when it is being powered on, not while it is running — don’t read that to mean a part won’t fail while it is running, because it most certainly can, it’s just not as likely to do so, just as your car is more likely to fail to start than die while running or idling.

All computer components have a rating called MTBF, or mean time between failure. “Mean time” means average. If a part is rated at 50,000 hours MTBF (typical for a computer hard drive), then that means the manufacturer has determined that the average lifespan for a component would be 50,000 hours of constant running — or it should be able to run continuously powered for over 2083 days, or about 5 years and 8 to 9 months. Now given this is the average rating, your part could die in a year run continuously, or it could die in 10 years.

So the idea goes that powering off your computer every day should extend the lifespan of your computer components because the MTBF is rated on constant use. The slight “surge” in powering on your components isn’t going to cause any significant stress to your components unless you’ve got bad wiring in your home or you’re connected to a substandard power grid. But if that were the case, and you’re not using an uninterruptible power supply (UPS, and I’m not talking about the courier), surge suppressor or power conditioner, you’re already causing damage to your computer whenever it’s powered on.

Modern desktop power supplies can more robustly handle substandard power delivery coming from the wall, but there are still limits beyond which that is not true, and that is in part still determined by what your computer requires to operate — i.e. if your computer is trying to draw 500W from the wall, but is having a difficult time getting it due to the power delivery in your home, you’re going to have stability issues. To find out the quality of the power delivery on your grid, you’ll need to talk to your power company. If the grid is fine, you may need to upgrade the wiring in your home — this will have significant benefits beyond your computer, as it could increase the lifespan of everything in your home, including major appliances, and possibly improve energy efficiency while also decreasing the possibility of a fire due to faulty electrical lines in your home.

Now this doesn’t change the fact that a component is still most likely to die when powering on. That’s just the nature of any electrical component.

In his article, Hill writes this: “A traditional hard disk drive, for example, has moving parts, whereas a solid state drive doesn’t and is far more robust as a result.” Okay let’s tackle this idea.

An SSD, or solid state drive, does not have moving parts. As such it consumes much less power and will run cooler and quieter, and is much less prone to shock damage (as in from a striking blow, not electrical shock). But they are significantly more expensive than traditional platter hard drives (HDDs). But whether they are more robust depends on how you use them.

Here’s the caveat: you don’t want to use them in systems where there will be very frequent changes to the data stored on it. Content creators, software developers, and the like really should not use an SSD as primary storage. Using it to store the operating system and software is one thing, to ensure that programs load quickly, and it’s information that is unlikely to change frequently.

But use a traditional HDD for storing work files and the like.

This is because SSD performance degrades over time, and will degrade faster if you don’t keep much free space on it while using it as a primary drive, or are making frequent writes, deletes, or rewrites to the data on the drive. You can keep this from occurring nearly as much by having multiple SSDs configured in a RAID 0 configuration (beyond the scope of this article), thereby spreading writes and rewrites across multiple drives. But you’d likely still be better off having a platter drive, especially since platter drives are much less expensive, and capacity is going to be more important than speed — doesn’t matter how fast your data is saved and loaded if you can’t store it.

The laptops issued by my employer have SSDs in them, and my upcoming device upgrade will also have an SSD. I’m actually considering talking to device support about moving over to a platter HDD, even if I have to pay for the drive out of my own pocket. This is in part due to capacity — see my previous paragraph. The drive I currently have is only 120GB, and the drive in the new laptop is 256GB, and as a software engineer, I prefer capacity over speed, so I’ll be discussing putting a larger platter hard drive in the device in its place. Word has it I may be able to have an HDD alongside the SSD, so I may explore that option as well.

SSDs are faster, but, again, their performance will degrade over time, and the SSD in my laptop is currently not much faster than a traditional platter drive. This is in part because my SSD — like those of my colleagues — has about 75% of its capacity currently used. That will cause an SSD’s performance to degrade faster because the algorithms the SSD’s firmware uses to prevent that performance degradation from occurring cannot work nearly as well.

Several of my colleagues have had to replace their SSDs over the last couple years due to the drive failing. The fact we also use full-drive encryption at work I think plays into that.

Whether you will encounter those limitations depends on what you do with your system, but do not ignore the fact that any drive, HDD or SSD, can fail on you at any time, so keep regular backups of important data. And the power delivery to and inside the system is what is most likely to cause a component to fail.

Hill provided a couple lists of reasons to leave your computer on or turn it off. The first reason to leave it on is if you’re using the system as a server, which most aren’t doing that, so it’s a moot point. The other two reasons are perfectly applicable:

  • There are background updates, virus scans, or other activities you’d like to occur while you’re away.
  • You never want to wait for it to start up.

It’s always best to have scans and updates occur during downtime, especially if the updates require a reboot — which means even if you’re not shutting down every night, at least have the system in a state where a reboot can automatically occur if it must. Speaking of which, even if you don’t shut down every night, a nightly reboot can still be beneficial.

Now let’s talk about the reasons to turn it off:

  • Leaving it on wastes electricity and can slightly increase your power bill.
  • You don’t want to be disturbed by notifications or fan noise.
  • Computer performance generally benefits from an occasional reboot.

Of these, the last is kind of nonsensical as you can manually reboot your computer. You can do a reboot in the morning while making coffee, or at night before going to bed. If you don’t want to be disturbed by fan noise or notifications, then put your system in another room so it’s not going to disturb you. And if the fans in your system are loud, replacing them is always an option, as there are plenty of options available for quiet fans that still push a good amount of air.

Leaving your system on will obviously mean it’s using power. Your system does not draw a continuous level of power from the wall and will only draw what it needs up to the rated power of the power supply. So if  you’re leaving your system idling overnight, it’s increasing your power bill by only a few dollars a month, so shutting it down every night is probably not going to make a huge difference on your power bill, especially if the amount if time it’s off will always be less than the amount of time it’s on.

How little power it draws when idling depends on the processor, mainboard and other components. For example Western Digital has the WD Green drive which is designed to spin down when not in use — this makes the drive undesirable for anything other than backup storage. Modern processors are actually fairly power efficient today, with technologies built in that allow them to sip power when idling. The efficiency of the computer’s power supply will also determine how much power the system uses while idling.

Then there’s the question of sleep or hibernate. Just like powering off, hibernate will only be of significant benefit if the computer is going to be off more than it will be on.

Putting your computer into a sleep state is also a beneficial option, but with one caveat: make sure your system is configured so the mouse cannot wake it up. If you have a wireless mouse, turn it off before putting your computer into sleep. A lot of optical mice on the market have very high resolution tracking on them, meaning the slightest shift on the mouse could wake your computer unexpectedly, negating the benefit of putting it into a sleep state. Hard drives spin down when the system is put to sleep, so unexpected wake-ups caused by a jolt that causes the mouse to report it’s moved will spin it back up sooner, and potentially more frequently.

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Firearms to the left is like abortion and gay marriage to the right

It is at times interesting noting parallels of liberals discussing abortion and marriage laws, and conservatives discussing gun laws. The recent example here is Michaelangelo Signorile, Editor-at-large for Huffington Post’s Gay Voices section, and his article “Has the Anti-Gay Right Found Its Gay ‘Partial-Birth Abortion’?

In the article, Signorile talks about how the pro-life right will not stop trying to chip away at abortion in the United States simply because of Roe v. Wade, and how that will become a model for what would happen should the Supreme Court of the United States issue a blanket decision overturning all gay marriage bans in the United States. Basically, they will be a bit more sneaky about it, using the cryptology of legalese to mask what they intend.

Yet if you look at the observations Signorile makes in his article, I cannot help but notice the parallels with what the left is trying to do with firearms rights in the United States. This paragraph in particular is key:

On abortion, they chipped away slowly at women’s freedom of choice, making abortion difficult to obtain and passing laws to restrict women’s rights even if some were and are later overturned. Some laws would stick, helping to limit abortion (often affecting poor women). And even when they ultimately lose, the right temporarily shuts down clinics or restricts access, creating a constant state of instability and keeping its agenda — and the often hateful rhetoric — in the national spotlight.

Let’s massage this paragraph a little bit:

On firearms, they chipped away slowly at gun rights, making firearms difficult to obtain and passing laws that restrict gun rights even if some were and are later overturned. Some laws would stick, helping to restrict guns (often affecting the poor). And even when they ultimately lose, the left temporarily cuts off or restricts access, creating a constant state of instability and keeping its agenda — and the often hateful rhetoric — in the national spotlight.

Doesn’t that summarize the gun control — excuse me, “gun safety” agenda in a heartbeat? Here’s another observation:

Test something out, see what works, and move on to something else if it doesn’t work.

Again, this is exactly what the left is trying to do with regard to firearms. The left will talk about needing to restrict guns to save lives, and the right will talk about needing to restrict abortion to save the unborn. And the sad thing is both sides are so clouded by their own ideologies they won’t see the hypocrisy, even when blatantly pointed out to them.

Even Signorile’s observation about how the gay rights movement has become somewhat complacent due to a lot of victories in recent years also applies to the gun rights advocates — or at least how we were ahead of Sandy Hook and Aurora:

It’s perplexing, but this seems to be part of a cocky strategy to act like winners and not give credence or attention to the haters. But when a state successfully passes an abhorrent, dangerous bill like the one in Arkansas, the only response is a loud, public condemnation, and demands that all your allies, including your business and political allies, speak out and condemn it. No matter if you lose, you must always show the opposition you will put up a nasty fight.

Again, let’s massage the language:

But when a state successfully passes an abhorrent, dangerous bill like the one in [Colorado, or other gun control state], the only response is a loud, public condemnation, and demands that your allies, including your business and political allies, speak out and condemn it. No matter if you lose, you must always show the opposition you will put up a nasty fight.

I don’t know Signorile’s stance on guns, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he were in favor of severe restrictions and bans on firearms. Yet even if I were to show him my observations herein, I wouldn’t change his mind in the least if that were the case, and he’d probably use predictable arguments to back up his assertions.

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Rack mount HDD enclosure, part 5

Let me start off with a simple question: why has Protocase never come up in my search results before? With their Protocase Designer software, I could create a CAD design of a 2Ux12″ enclosure with 4 cutouts in the front for 80mm fans plus a cutout for a 16mm vandal-resistant switch. Plus in the back of the case, I had a cutout for a FlexATX power supply (it’s actually just a square hole for the AC plug and holes for a 40mm fan, but close enough) and a cutout for the port multiplier.

And the software is the easiest I’d ever used for something like this. I’m not kidding. It is extremely intuitive. It comes with a pre-loaded library of cutouts for various things, and you can create your own cutouts if you know what you’re doing. Only downside is everything is in inches, and I’d love to see a metric option, so Protocase, if you happen across this, consider that an enhancement request.

And I was able to get an instant quote as well from the software:

Rack quoteFor a custom cut 2Ux12″ rack enclosure made from 18 gauge steel into which I’d just have to add what I’m going to be mounting up, with plenty of room for cabling and cable management… I’d say 138 USD is a pretty good overall price.

Their service promises turnaround of a few days, but I’m not going to place the order just yet. I’ll probably wait till later in the week if not till next payday.

In the mean time I’m going to be playing around with their software a bit more. I’ve got a couple other ideas in mind, and I’d like to see what kind of quotes I could get. Ordering multiple things at once could save on shipping.

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Rack mount HDD enclosure, part 4

Time to admit defeat. Well, sort of.

Over the last couple weeks I’ve tried several options for mounting hard drives inside the rack mount enclosure I had purchased. And so far none of the options had really worked well. First, let’s look at the layout of the enclosure.

Recall that I was trying to work in the Bud Industries PRM-14462 enclosure, which is a 2Ux8″ plastic enclosure — there is a 1U and 3U option as well. If you look at the technical drawing for the enclosure, you’ll see that there are 4 posts in the middle of the enclosure with about 8½” between them. 3½” HDDs are 4″ wide.

I could have the HDDs mounted fairly close together, but the trouble was figuring out how. I bought acrylic sheet from my local Home Depot with the intent of trying to make HDD mounts from scratch, but trying to drill all of that by hand without a drill press (one of the downsides of living in an apartment) only proved frustrating. So I ultimately gave up on that mark.

By the way, if you’re wanting to drill holes through acrylic, get a glass-cutting bit. It works like a charm.

Another material I considered, and which probably would’ve worked well, was aluminum angle bar. But after trying to use acrylic to get want I wanted, I didn’t want to custom build something if it could be avoided.

With that in mind, I found a product from Agestar that intrigued me. I first saw it listed on ModDIY, but as out of stock, then found it listed on NewEgg as in stock. Thinking it would work like a charm, I ordered 4 sets, one for each HDD that’d be going into this. Things didn’t work out the way I’d hoped though as they wouldn’t fit within the vertical posts in the enclosure.

There was another problem with the enclosure that ultimately led me to believe what I had planned would not work.

3½” HDDs are not only 4″ wide, they’re 5¾” long. Subtract out about 1″ for the fans I’d be having in the front to draw in air, and that leaves only 1¼” of space for figuring out how to neatly route cables. The lack of SATA power connectors on the drives means I need to use splitters, which would take up a significant chunk of that leftover space, meaning cable management would be interesting, to say the least. Plus I’d need to run cables to the port multiplier and fans, along with the other cables coming off the power supply… it’d get messy quickly.

So what I need ultimately is just a deeper enclosure, preferably at 11″ or 12″. It still needs to be 2U depth, since everything else I’ve bought is for that configuration. The deeper enclosure, preferably one without vertical posts, should allow for a much better configuration of everything. The only trouble is finding one for a reasonable price, as most of the ones I’ve found are either too expensive or available only from an overseas supplier.

One company I am considering, though, is Protocase since they are here in the United States, namely New York, and I’m using their designer software to make an enclosure that will support 4x80mm fans in the front plus a 22mm anti-vandal switch. For the back, I’m not sure what I’m going to do there. I may stick to my original plans to leave it open with the exception of thin mesh, or I’ll see how much I’m quoted to have a proper back panel on it with ventilation holes.

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Absinthe – Part XIX: Valentine’s Day

Contents: All articles in this series

The title almost makes this sound like some horrible romance/horror movie… Anyone know Neve Campbell’s phone number? I think she’d be perfect for the lead role… Anyway…

So here’s a question: what do you get a PC gamer girl for Valentine’s Day? In previous posts I talked about upgrading her graphics system, and I was originally thinking R9 290 or GTX 970. Then I saw a pretty good deal on NewEgg for an R9 290X “Double-D” from XFX:

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Stay tuned.

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More crap about debt collectors

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I wonder how many of those who write articles about debt collectors and collections have actually been through it. I have. It’s been about three years since I paid off and wrote off the last debt collector, so I know the territory. I’m pretty sure Ben DeMeter of Investopedia does not. He wrote an article back in 2012 (only just saw it recently) called “6 Ways to Keep Debt Collectors at Bay“, and it reads as if he’s discovered Superman’s secret weakness.

And one of his opening statements tells me he’s likely never been through collections: “Anyone who’s ever been in that position will tell you it’s somewhere they never want to be again in their lives.”

He’s right that it’s not someplace I want to be again. I’ve been through collections. I’ve been to Court. Of course in the future I’ll do whatever I can to avoid that. Unfortunately you may, like me, end up going through it out of circumstances not of your own making.

You have rights as an American citizen – rights that debt collection agencies cannot infringe upon no matter how much money you owe.

Yes you do have rights, but so does the debt collector. Here’s the thing: debt collectors are not government agents. They are out to collect what they are owed. But the rights you do have with regard to debt collections, the specific few there are under Federal law (and any applicable State laws) have a time limitation to them.

The other rights that come with debt collections aren’t rights exclusive to it. If you are being harassed, you have the right to tell them to stop, and seek redress through the Court or law enforcement if they refuse.

A debt collector can’t legally pursue you unless he or she gives you a written statement outlining your debt within five days of contacting you. You don’t have to say anything to him or her over the phone until that letter arrives. If the letter doesn’t arrive within five days, you could have grounds to sue him or her for harassment.

None of the collections agencies with whom I’ve had the wonderful experience of interacting ever called me. So there may never be an initial phone call, and not all debt collectors will attempt to call you. Instead what they’ll probably do is send you an initial notice in the mail, which can go out at any time, then try to call you if they don’t hear from you within a certain time frame after sending the notice.

Given how many collections accounts the agencies are likely managing today, initial contact attempts by phone are likely very uncommon.

And they are not obligated to attempt contact by phone first. Their initial contact may be by mail only, especially since they’ll likely include a settlement offer with it with a payment coupon to take immediate advantage of it. You’re not obligated to accept that offer and can negotiate, but, again, they are not obligated to call you first before sending notice by mail.

And to keep clocks from ticking against them, many likely will not, unless the account is for a small balance (i.e. $100 or less), for which payment may be arranged over the phone without any additional communication being necessary.

Third party collectors who buy your debt from your credit issuer are not. They’ll try to keep their identities a secret, because they know that the Fair Debt Collection Act gives you the power to demand, in writing, that they stop calling you.

Debt collections has kind of gained a reputation as being a shady, underground enterprise of assholes who do nothing but sit on the phone screaming at old ladies trying to shake them down for an unpaid hospital or doctor bill. While some collections agents and agencies may be like this, to paint the entire industry with such a wide brush is fallacious in the kindest terms.

Seriously there are so many sob stories about debt collections that I’m not sure what is believable and what isn’t. I’ve seen a range of them from the story of someone being taken through collections over $8.97, to widows and widowers being “harassed” over a debt account they didn’t realize their deceased spouse had, to threats of arrest and prosecution, and seizures of houses and cars.

By the way, the very latter is actually a legal maneuver a debt collector can take, though there are quite a few steps involved in doing so.

And the trend definitely reflects that the more you owe, the more aggressive debt collectors are likely to be, and they may end up crossing the line without really realizing it.

But yes you do have the power to tell them to stop calling you. So go ahead and send that cease and desist letter if you so desire, thinking that you’ve just given the debt collector the proverbial finger and that you won’t have to deal with them again.

Because what the author failed to mention is the potential consequence of sending that cease and desist letter. You may receive a knock at your door by a Court process server.

Don’t accept any of their payment plan offers when they call. Instead, offer to pay 10% to 15% of what you owe. Tell them you can’t afford any more, and stand firm if they don’t accept.

Again this guy seems completely unaware of the fact that a debt collector can and will sue you.

If you think you can offer to pay only 10% or 15% of what you owe, you’re borderline insane as I don’t know of any debt collector that will accept such an offer. Instead what they will likely do is consider any potential negotiations to be fruitless and take you to Court, in which case your argument about what you can afford is absolutely worthless.

Lawsuits open up a lot of different avenues for collections for the debt collector. But lawsuits also mean delays in getting any kind of money, but if what you’re offering could be considered certifiably insane, or if you refuse to work with them at all, you’ll find yourself on the business end of one.

As soon as your debt collector starts calling, record everything he or she says. When he or she calls, inform him or her that he or she is being monitored and start taping. When you make an agreement with him or her, get it in writing and keep the letter on file. Think of it as gathering evidence. If the collection agency ever crosses the line, you’ll have a strong enough case to take the agency to court. Sometimes, even a small clerical error is enough to get your debt completely erased. You can only win the battle if you’ve got enough bullets.

And DeMeter is definitely certifiably insane.

While you should record everything with regard to the debt — namely because the debt collector is likely doing the same — that’s about the only part of this paragraph that is accurate.

Small clerical errors are not going to get your debt completely erased, and if you try to bank on such an idea, you’ll find out how expensive it will be. Small errors are likely to be overlooked by the Court unless there is evidence of willful or intentional misconduct. The Court won’t erase the debt or bar enforcement of it because of a small clerical error. Yet it would not surprise me if there are a ton of people who think such.

If the collection agency ever crosses the line, yes you may have evidence for a suit or counter-suit. But that is only if you can demonstrate that they have acted in violation of the law. Small clerical errors don’t count. It needs to be something a bit bigger on the legal scale.

If a collection agency refuses to stop overstepping its bounds to contact you, then you should strongly consider contacting an attorney. If you’ve been recording evidence of after-hours calls and verbal harassment, you could be able to file a lawsuit. Who knows, you might even be able to clear your debts through a settlement.

Again, I wouldn’t bank on this.

Certainly if you think a debt collector is overstepping what is allowable by law, then you should contact an attorney. A settlement, though, is unlikely to clear out what you owe to them. In a lot of cases, what’ll probably happen is the debt collector will just cease collection attempts, but that does not mean the debt goes away as it’ll likely be placed with another collection agency, and the whole process starts anew.

* * * * *

Okay let’s get into the reality of debt collections and what your rights actually are.

First, if a debt collector contacts you by phone, they must identify themselves as a debt collector and must inform you they are calling with the purpose of collecting a debt. If you are contacted by phone by a debt collector, say this and hang up: “Put the details in writing and send it in the mail.”

From that initial phone call, the debt collector must send the details of the debt to you through the mail, and it must be postmarked on or before 5 days after that initial phone call.

After you receive that initial letter, you have a right called debt validation, but you have only 30 days to exercise it for its exercise to be legally binding. Validation means just what it says: the debt collector must verify the validity of the debt they are attempting to collect, and must provide evidence of that validity to you by mail. They do not have a time limit by which to do this, but they cannot continue to collect on the account until they have done so. For older accounts, this will likely end any collection attempts.

Provided all of these requirements are met, the debt collector is free to use whatever tools are at their disposal, within the bounds of applicable State and Federal laws, to collect the debt.

One of those tools DeMeter never mentions: they can sue you to collect the debt. That is a tool that is always at their disposal. If you tell them to stop contacting you, they will likely turn around and send you a letter saying, in short, “Okay we’ll stop contacting you. Instead we’ve filed a lawsuit.” Nothing in any applicable statute says they cannot. They will place the account with an attorney in your area and you will be served with papers.

And your options become limited once they initiate a lawsuit. And if you think you can just offer to settle for 10% or 15% of what you owe, you’d better read up on what options come available to the debt collector once they have a legally-binding judgment against you.

If you have evidence of misconduct on the part of the debt collector, you must counter-sue as that evidence has nothing to do with the validity of the debt itself, only the collector’s ability to enforce it. And unless your State has laws on its books mirroring the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, your lawsuit may have to be taken to the United States District Court that has jurisdiction. If the collection agency is in a different State, you may have file your lawsuit in that State.

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Gun owners for gun control

It seems to be a growing, if not now the majority pattern to articles discussing gun control: “I support gun control and I’m a gun owner”. Oh wait, except the term they’re trying to front now is “gun safety”…

What’s worse is when people who are retired military and a gun owner also speaking out in support of gun control. Here’s the thing: being a gun owner does not increase the validity (or lack thereof) of your arguments in favor of gun control (“gun safety”). I’m not sure what word describes someone who already owns [insert item here] wanting greater restriction on the ownership of [said item]. I don’t think it’s hypocrite.

The most recent example of this from my observation comes from New Hampshire. A retired USAF “noncom” (meaning non-commissioned officer) wrote an article for the Concord Monitor about gun control and the recent expansion of gun rights in New Hampshire to include the ability to carry a firearm concealed into the New Hampshire Capital complex.

And the article does not start out well: “I’ll probably be excoriated by the pro-gun community for this”. This is like many images appearing on Imgur with a caption saying “This’ll probably die in user-sub” (don’t concern yourself with what that means if you’re don’t already know), or comments that start out with “This will probably get lost in the comments”.

These statements are made with the hope that it doesn’t, and in this case, this retired NCO is likely hoping the same. But saying the equivalent of “I’ll probably get a response to this” (though he was saying “I’ll probably get attacked for this”) in the hopes it doesn’t happen tells me two things: you are either either not confident about your position, or you don’t know how to present your position coherently.

It also presents a kind of persecution complex, and I really hope anti-gunners aren’t going to start presenting themselves as a persecuted class. That would just be pathetic.

Moving on.

“[O]ur legislators have once again made us a national laughing stock by passing rules that permit them to carry concealed firearms in the halls of our legislative buildings”

Actually the rule permits anyone to carry a firearm concealed in the New Hampshire House of Representatives. But who’s laughing, out of curiosity?

Now while the likelihood is very low that there will be any kind of shooting occurring at a legislative building — just as the likelihood is very low of a shooting really anywhere — it has happened before.

Recall back in 1998 two Capitol Police officers were killed when a gunman walked into the United States Capitol and opened fire, wounding two others. The gunman in question was known to the Secret Service to be a person who made a threat toward the President of the United States. He has also yet to be tried due to being found incompetent to stand trial.

So while the potential for a shooting at New Hampshire capitol building is unlikely, I can understand a desire to carry within the building. Except, anyone with a valid permit already could carry within the building. It’s just within the House of Representatives that carry was not allowed until the recent rule change. So really I don’t see why he’s complaining.

I’ll get to that in a little bit, but first, let’s turn to his gloating about his history with firearms:

I’m a retired Air Force noncom who has been a target shooter for more than 50 years and have hunted large and small game both here and abroad. I’m a staunch advocate of responsible firearm ownership.

I was a card-carrying NRA member for more than 20 years until Wayne LaPierre turned it into a circus of bitter old men with axes to grind. I’ve owned numerous handguns, rifles and shotguns of every ilk, and I have held a permit to carry concealed for years.

Well I’m not a military veteran. I’ve owned firearms for a little over 4 years now, and have been carrying concealed for a little over two. I am not a member of the NRA and never have been a member, but I am a member of the United States Concealed Carry Association. My opinion on LaPierre is mixed as I’ve only listened to a few of his speeches and otherwise don’t really care about his opinion.

But I’m also a staunch advocate of responsible gun ownership. For example I wrote an article about my concealed carry class I took 6 days before Sandy Hook, and how it appeared most of the others in my class were not competent with their firearm of choice (and most of them seemed to have .22LR pistols as well).

Yes, I carry a concealed handgun quite frequently, but I have no problem relinquishing my pistol when entering a facility that requires it. If I’m entering a post office, hospital or other facility that prohibits weapons, it gets locked in a safe in my vehicle or left at home.

I carry every day, not just “frequently”. I also have no problem leaving my pistol locked in my car where law or policy requires it — even if I feel doing so is unwise, such as at Oak Park Mall in Overland Park, KS. Most recently I did that yesterday with my visit to the post office. Same at the hospital where my wife’s orthopedist practices, and at the medical building with my wife’s physician and endocrinologist practice.

It’s simply a matter of the fact that the law requires this. Carrying a firearm into a Federal facility1, including post offices, is a Federal misdemeanor2, unless that facility is a court facility3, in which case it becomes a felony4. Here in Missouri, carrying into a building with a posted “no firearms allowed” sign is not a crime, but can subject the person to removal from the premises5. Same with Kansas6. Failure to remove yourself from the premises could result in an “armed trespass” charge or something similar, which tend to be treated as aggravated misdemeanors.

So if you’re trying to present yourself as a “reasonable gun owner” by the fact you’re doing what the law requires, you’re not “reasonable” but arrogant. You’re also law-abiding, so congratulations.

Since my retirement from the military, I’ve never had an employer who permitted firearms on the job, and I respected that premise as a condition of employment.

There aren’t many employers that do allow employees to carry while on the job, and the ones that do tend to require it instead of just allow it — such as armored car drivers and some security details, along with, of course, law enforcement. My employer requires that I have my weapon properly secured in my vehicle and that I cannot have it on my person while I’m in the building. We also have armed security on the site, so I’m not hugely concerned.

You also have no choice but to respect their weapons policies if you want to stay employed. Again if you’re trying to present yourself as more “reasonable” because you respected that policy, again you’re really presenting yourself as more arrogant.

Now here we have a bunch of so-called pillars of our society who feel they can’t get the job done as legislators unless they’re armed to the teeth.

So carrying one pistol, likely without any spare magazines or speed loaders (in the case of revolvers), is “armed to the teeth”? Have you lost your mind, or are you succumbing to the over-the-top rhetoric coming out of gun control organizations like Bloomberg’s crowd?

What do they fear? We have yet to have any incidents in the House or Senate that would justify their “need.” What kind of message does this send to the school children who frequently visit the chambers?

Again, see my example quoted above of the 1998 incident at the United States Capitol. While no legislators were harmed in that incident, it does establish the possibility of an attack on a legislative building or office. But again, the rule isn’t limited to just legislators, and merely opened up the legislative chamber since previously that was the only part of the New Hampshire capital complex where you could not carry concealed.

His next couple paragraphs are about the kind of fear mongering I see out of gun control supporters who own guns and can basically be summarized his opening question: “Have they had proper safety and marksmanship training?” The answer to this is quite obvious: they have had safety and marksmanship training to the degree necessary to obtain a concealed carry permit. This retired NCO seems to think this rule means anyone can carry concealed, instead of just those with a permit.

The rule in question in the New Hampshire House of Representatives is House Rule 63, which currently states:7

No person, including members of the House, except law enforcement officers while actively engaged in carrying out their duties as such, shall display any deadly weapon as defined in RSA 625:11, V while in the House Chamber, anterooms, cloakrooms, or House gallery.

It should be noted that the New Hampshire Senate has no such restriction in its rules that I could tell — if I’m overlooking it somehow, someone please point it out — and there is no law in New Hampshire restricting the carry of firearms except with regard to courthouses (for what should be obvious reasons). Federal laws still apply, obviously.

But this rule doesn’t abrogate the standing laws regarding concealed carry in New Hampshire, meaning the permit is still required, and all persons seeking a permit must follow the same process, including legislators.

If you’re uncomfortable with the level of marksmanship competence that must be displayed to obtain a concealed carry permit in the State of New Hampshire, then work to change that as opposed to restricting where all persons who have qualified can carry. Personally I’d like to see a marksmanship certification required for renewal of a concealed carry permit.

Beyond this, he goes into a ton of speculation that really makes me question his mental faculties, including “Perhaps the politicians are afraid someone will take offense at some of the wacky antics we’ve seen in the Legislature of late, and perhaps justifiably so.”

And then there’s his concluding paragraph:

Another related issue is the movement to eliminate the need for concealed carry permits. These permits are intended to provide local law enforcement with a tool to winnow out the potential crazies who may not yet have reached the status of felon or other person of questionable character. New Hampshire’s small towns provide their police chiefs the luxury of knowing most, if not all, of their constituents, and being able to deny permits for cause. I sleep better knowing there’s at least one level of control in place. I know of several shady local individuals that should be denied permits to carry. Let’s keep that local control.

I wonder of this person is aware of the fact that New Hampshire issues permits to persons not living in New Hampshire — and they’re not the only State to do so — along with providing full reciprocity to States that honor their permits. So that basically means I can carry my pistol concealed in New Hampshire without the need for a non-resident permit.

The application requires providing the names and mailing addresses of three references, the name and address of your current employer, repeats several questions found on the ATF form 4473, and asks that you declare a reason for the application — though “self defense” is considered a proper reason. And the law requires the applicant be a “suitable person to be licensed”, so this must be the “local control” he is alluding to.

But his statements otherwise parallel the statements commonly made whenever discussing making it easier to own and acquire firearms — i.e. it’s just fear mongering.

  1. As defined at 18 USC § 930(g)(1) []
  2. 18 USC § 930(a) []
  3. As defined at 18 USC § 930(g)(3) []
  4. 18 USC § 930(e)(1) []
  5. RSMO 571.107(2) []
  6. KSA 2014 Supp. 75-7c10(e)(1) []
  7. New Hampshire House of Representatives legislative journal for 2015, January 2, page 2 []
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Aurora and concealed carry

With the upcoming trial of James Holmes looming around the corner, the Second Amendment is once again being discussed. And it’s the Aurora theatre shooting that tends to divide people with regard to concealed carry. In short, those against expanding firearms rights in the US tend to say that the Aurora shooting would’ve been a “hail of gunfire” if there were people carrying concealed in that theatre on that fateful night.

And anyone who knows how these situations tend to play out know that is not true in the least.

Sure there would’ve been a small handful of people who would’ve tried to put shots on Holmes. But let’s assume everyone in the theatre was of lawful age and capacity for carrying a firearm. We’re talking a lot of people. And let’s assume they were all armed.

To assume that everyone would start trying to open fire on Holmes is absurd.

First, most people who are licensed or permitted to carry concealed don’t have any kind of training for those kind of scenarios — or for really any scenario. They are not mentally prepared to defend others, let alone themselves, in such a chaotic situation. As such, the outcome would likely have not been much different, with many attempting to flee and many not being able to do so.

Further, the chaos that erupted when the shooting started would’ve made any counter response difficult to initiate had anyone been armed.

The one word that most people seem to forget when it comes to talking about concealed carry is ambush. Another concept comes to mind that applies: “fish in a barrel”.

Play any online FPS and watch for a situation where a person is ambushed and watch how they react. We’re talking someone with the capability to return fire who, very likely, does not have the opportunity to do so. There are also ambush situations where the player is able to return fire and the person who attempted the ambush is the one killed. You might get lucky, or you might not. It all depends on the variables.

The police are often nowhere nearby as well. Adam Lanza was active in Sandy Hook for approximately 5 minutes before he took his own life. James Holmes had approximately 7 minutes.

In the former, police showed up 3 minutes after the dispatcher’s initial broadcast. In the latter, it was 90 seconds. A lot can happen in that time. A lot did happen in what to most seems like a short amount of time. The police could not save the souls at either Aurora or Sandy Hook — yet the anti-gun rights crowd pushes for reliance on the unreliable.

This isn’t about owning a rifle with 30-round magazines for sport shooting. This is about life and death scenarios.

A person carrying a weapon concealed can still be ambushed. Yet the language of the anti-gun rights crowd seems to be that the mere existence of the ambush concept means concealed carry is worthless and should not be allowed. I wrote such not long after the Sandy Hook massacre:

Yet many seem to think that if anyone dies in a situation arrested by a person carrying a concealed weapon, that if that CCW person could not prevent all of the deaths in a situation, then that person is little better than useless. Talk about a high bar to reach. And I think that’s the point.

But if a lawfully carrying person had violated the “gun free zone” of that public school and stopped things such that 19 children died instead of 20, I think everyone would agree that even saving that one life would still be a win, especially when we’re talking about children. One need not save all lives to justify using a firearm to put a stop to such a situation. After all, lawfully permitted carriers of concealed weapons are not superheroes, and to expect us to be superheroes, saving everyone facing peril and near-certain death, is beyond unfair. They can, however, be the first responders and arrest a bad situation while the police are on their way. After all the sooner someone responds to the situation in the proper manner, the quicker a bad situation is interrupted on its way to being a worse situation. And a person best able to respond to a mass shooter is a person already in the vicinity, and that person need not be a law enforcement officer.

There is an agenda to be followed, and so long as the agenda does not personally impact them, they’re fine. The person who doesn’t own guns doesn’t mind seeing gun rights restricted. The person who owns guns and does not plan to purchase any more likely also will not have a problem with seeing gun rights restricted, so long as he isn’t going to lose what he already has.And to that end they will twist words and make absurd arguments.

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