Stop trying to license constitutional rights

ArticleA Gun Nut’s Guide to Gun Control That Works: A federal license for possession of semi-automatic firearms could make Americans safer—and more free.

Self-described “gun industry insider” Jon Stokes penned an article for Politico expressing a simple idea: “federally issued license for simple possession of all semi-automatic firearms”. Not just semi-automatic rifles, which is the bane of all anti-gun advocates out there.

All semi-automatic firearms. This would basically mean needing a license to possess what most every gun owner already has: a semi-automatic pistol. Since every gun maker in the world makes them and there’s an enormous variety available.

This makes his scheme instantly unconstitutional given DC v. Heller, which asserted the individual right to keep and bear arms “in common use” – 554 US at 627.

While the author points out that the Assault Weapons Ban attempt is “emblematic of gun control proponents’ consistent failure to understand how gun technology and the gun market actually work in the 21st century”, the entire idea of a Federal license to possess the most common firearm classification in the world shows a misunderstanding of how rights are supposed to work.

The entire history of gun control in the United States is a slippery slope so tall it makes Mount Everest look like a pile of sand in a sandbox. So despite the initial limitation that it would apply to semi-automatic firearms – again, the most common classification of firearms in the world – it would eventually be applied to ALL firearms.

You cannot say honestly that it would not.

Currently there is no census of firearms owners as well. This licensing scheme would change that. While it wouldn’t create a gun registry, a gun owner registry is just as undesirable, and likely just as unconstitutional under the Second Amendment as it would be unconstitutional under the First to create a registry of or require licensure for journalists, or in any other way attempt to limit the legitimacy of certain types of media by definition of law.

You’re already in a ton of public and private databases that contain the most intimate details of your life. Everyone from Facebook to Google to Equifax to the Social Security Administration has a big, fat file on you.

This doesn’t justify the creation of yet another database of personal information. And it’s immaterial to the larger discussion.

Yes I’ve already got entries in numerous databases. There’s a big difference, though, between those systems and an ATF system that tracks firearm possession licenses. That is the singular objection that anyone proposing any similar idea must overcome, and the author fails to overcome it here. He instead just brings up the “well, so many other organizations already have your information”.

First private organizations may possess your information, but have severe limitations placed on how they can use that information under Federal and State laws and regulations.

And before the government can lawfully possess your information, they must have a legitimate reason for it. Like… taxation.

The Federal government has your information on file to enforce Federal taxation, in particular Federal income taxation. State tax authorities have that information for the same reason. That is why children are issued Social Security numbers from a very early age: that, or another tax authority identification number, are necessary to claim the child as a dependent to take advantage of certain tax deductions or credits, or claim certain other benefits under the law.

If you are a business owner, you know that you generally need a State sales tax permit as well. A permit to collect and remit State sales taxes. Imagine that! That permit, though, is actually a registration along with a tacit submission to the State’s audit authority as well. And that information is used to enforce taxation, specifically to make sure you are properly collecting sales taxes – the proper percentage, given State and local regulations, and on the proper items.

Your vehicle registration is the same way. So many anti-gun advocates talk about gun registration with “you have to register your car, too”. Yes, you register your car because you are required by State law to pay several classes of taxes on it, starting with property taxes. If the government was not taxing your vehicles, they’d have no reason to require registration.

That is why you receive a letter at the start of every calendar year from your county assessor’s office. And the same applies for marine craft, aircraft, and even livestock – if you’re in the business of raising and selling livestock, as opposed to merely owning a few horses, goats, etc., unconnected with any business operations. It’s also why there have been calls for property taxes on firearms and ammunition, as such would make firearm registration universal, despite the idea being unconstitutional under the Second Amendment, just as taxing paper and licensing journalists is unconstitutional under the First.

And public schools have information on the parents and attendant children for enforcement of the law. Education meeting certain minimum standards is mandatory in every State. So the government tracks certain information for proper enforcement of applicable laws, whether by public or private schooling or home schooling.

In other words the existence of car registration and other government databases of personal information isn’t in any way a limitation on any rights, but about proper exercise of a government’s legitimate powers such as, but not limited to, its taxing authority. Part of this includes a government database of those convicted of felonies and certain misdemeanors, since those convictions are used as the basis for limiting rights and privileges under the law.

You wouldn’t need a license to own lots and lots of guns of different types under this scheme, either. You would just need a license to own semi-autos, just like you need a license to broadcast over certain parts of the public airways.

Oh dear God, not this argument again.

I’ll set aside that this is merely another way of saying “Since the Second Amendment isn’t unlimited, we can pass any gun restrictions we want (short of an outright ban), and they’re all perfectly reasonable because your rights aren’t unlimited.”

First of all, there aren’t many “different types” of firearms either. You have rifles, shotguns, and pistols. Semi-automatic is the only classification spanning across all three. Rifles can also be bolt action, lever action, breech load (though uncommon), or muzzle load. Shotguns can also be breech-load or pump action. And pistols can be muzzle load, breech load (e.g. Derringers), or revolvers.

Semi-automatic firearms are, say it with me, the most common firearm classification in the world. This means you’re talking about requiring licensing for more than 90% of firearm owners in the United States. Again, this is unconstitutional given DC v. Heller.

And do you know why broadcast licenses are necessary?

First and foremost, it’s to regulate (in other words, “make regular”) the public airwaves and prevent multiple broadcasters on the same frequency in the same general area. Anyone who has tried to setup a WiFi access point in an apartment building knows the difficulty here, since you have a set number of channels on the 2.4GHz and 5GHz band, so getting a reliable WiFi setup when you have apartments all around you also trying to use WiFi can be… interesting.

Imagine three broadcasters in an area – e.g. a country, pop, and hip-hop station – all trying to broadcast on the same frequency in your metro area. None would get through clearly unless you were close to an individual station’s broadcast antenna.

And part of that regulation is also about broadcast power. Your local radio and on-air television stations generate continuous high-power radio waves. Radio waves can generate interference with numerous devices. So the FCC regulates access to the public airwaves, and disallows use of certain radio frequencies, to minimize this interference to acceptable levels. Acceptable levels being that which electronics manufacturers can reasonably account for, control for, and protect against.

That is why you have the FCC Part 15 statement on virtually all electronic devices sold in the United States:

This device complies with part 15 of the FCC rules. Operation is subject to the following two conditions: (1) This device may not cause harmful interference, and (2) this device must accept any interference received, including interference that may cause undesired operation.

As an example of the kind of cross-talk interference that can occur, back during the Cold War, the Soviet Union operated the Duga radar, a high-power (10MW) missile-launch detection system that operated by sending out a pulse at 10Hz in the shortwave radio bands. It was nicknamed the Russian Woodpecker. Quoting Wikipedia:

The random frequency hops disrupted legitimate broadcasts, amateur radio operations, oceanic commercial aviation communications, utility transmissions, and resulted in thousands of complaints by many countries worldwide. The signal became such a nuisance that some receivers such as amateur radios and televisions actually began including ‘Woodpecker Blankers’ in their circuit designs in an effort to filter out the interference.

There was also a group who tried jam the Woodpecker, called the Russian Woodpecker Hunting Club. The Duga radar has not been operational in about three decades as of when I write this.

The license to broadcast on the public airwaves isn’t a limitation on your free speech rights. It’s more akin to regulating traffic on a road. Only there are a lot more lanes and you’re granted exclusive use of one of those lanes in a general area. And the license is merely one additional layer on top of a speech medium with significant barriers to entry – the cost of the broadcast equipment, and the cost of powering and operating it, any licensing and costs associated with content, etc.

Plus the broadcast license is about regulating the airwaves, not regulating what’s on the airwaves. Though the FCC has come under fire for attempting to and actually doing the latter by threatening the licenses or instituting fines against broadcasters for violating certain “decency standards” – e.g. the Janet Jackson “nipple slip” that became the inspiration for creating YouTube.

The First Amendment, and much of the Bill of Rights, was inspired by actions of King George III and the British Parliament, including the Stamp Act of 1765 which literally taxed paper. A license to possess semi-automatic firearms, again the most common firearms classification in the world, is akin to a license to purchase and possess paper, or a license to create and operate a blog or Facebook page. And attempts to ban certain firearms is akin to banning books or implementing and enforcing “obscenity” laws.

And it is that which those who continually try to propose licensing schemes for firearms must acknowledge. You are talking about turning a constitutional right into a government-licensed privilege. This was demonstrated with Illinois wherein the State of Illinois revoked Travis Reinking’s firearms ownership license merely at the request of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. No Court order, of which I’m aware. No due process. Just merely a request from Federal law enforcement and suddenly Reinking was an illegal firearm possessor under the law.

In other words, licensure becomes a “kill switch” on a right unless there are safeguards in place wherein the license can only be suspended or revoked by court order, and only in response to proper adjudication in a Court of Law per the Fourteenth Amendment. And all licenses must be issued on a “shall issue” basis unless the person has been properly adjudicated in such a away as to legitimately deny them their Second Amendment rights. Meaning Illinois’s firearm licensure laws are, themselves, unconstitutional.

Unfortunately not even concealed carry permits carry such protection in most States. For example several years ago, James Yeager released a video online in which, expressing his frustration at the political climate and proposed gun control ideas, he said he might “start killing people”. Not long after that video was released, the State of Tennessee suspended his concealed carry permit.

No due process. No Court order. Just an arbitrary action by the government.

* * * * *

There is one objection the author does not address: the need to pay additional fees and navigate additional bureaucratic red tape to exercise a constitutional right. Along with the racial disparities in how laws are enforced. As has been pointed out time and time again, gun control laws are going to be disproportionately enforced against impoverished minorities for numerous reasons.

So taking on another level of fees to obtain a license to purchase and possess the most common firearm classification in the world will disproportionately affect minorities. Unlicensed possession of said firearms will likely be a felony, not a simple misdemeanor, meaning you risk locking more minorities up in jail on felony charges. Felony convictions come with numerous impairments both in law and society.

So this would basically set up a system that creates more crimes and criminals. That’s the opposite direction we should be going.

Plus as Elliot Rodger already showed, more gun control laws won’t stop mass shootings. Laws alone won’t stop mass shootings, as we saw with the Tennessee Waffle House shooting. Since laws don’t stop crimes from happening. Only prescribe consequences for said crimes after the fact, provided those crimes can be demonstrated to have occurred beyond reasonable doubt in a Court of Law.

Which is why it’s laughable that in response to an anti-gun objection to his proposal:

OK, but if we don’t have a gun registry and we do away with FFL transfers for license holders, then what’s to stop a license holder from selling a gun to a non-license holder?

he responded with this:

The law is what will stop them. As gun controllers are always fond of reminding people like me, criminalization is a deterrent.

It isn’t the deterrent it needs to be in order for such laws to be effective.

Most gun crimes are committed by one particular racial demographic in the United States. Yet gun control is only proposed when people – particularly children – of another demographic are targeted. So in many ways, the issue is very black and white, respectively.

Plus the continuous demand for more gun laws is tacit admission that all the other laws we currently have on the books – and there are a lot of them – haven’t done jack for violent crime, homicide, and suicide in the United States. And they largely have not, will not, and cannot.

I’ve shown that gun laws are not correlated with violent crimes. That looser gun laws doesn’t mean more violent crime, and it doesn’t mean less violent crime in general either. Same with that stronger gun laws don’t net less violent crime. But there is an exception wherein looser gun laws do mean less robberies in metropolitan areas. And stronger gun laws do not translate into lower suicide rates.

So this whole licensure idea, like the ideas of requiring gun owners have liability insurance, is just another idea intended on throwing more fees and bureaucratic red tape in front of the Second Amendment. And it will ultimately not do anything to curtail violent crime in the United States.

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Don’t show me yours, I won’t show you mine

On April 14, 2018, I was driving south on I-35 through Olathe, KS, on the first leg of a road trip out to Las Vegas. That vacation didn’t quite go as planned – details on that later, based on if or how the situation is resolved. But on the drive out, freeway traffic was being its usual pain in the ass.

By that I mean you have a mix of some going a little above the limit, some going lower than the limit, some going lower than the limit who find it perfectly okay to pull in front of those going faster than the limit to get around those going only a little slower than they are… And unbeknownst at the moment, they were all trying to stay behind a Kansas Highway Patrol officer who was going 70 MPH.

The speed limit through the area was 65 MPH. I was trying to go 80 MPH.

Wanting to get around all of that, I tried to speed around the traffic, seeing the officer as I went along, eyeing the clearing ahead of the traffic. That’s when the officer pulled behind me and sped to match my speed. And promptly lit me up.

Now I’ve discussed before (here, here, and here) how to handle yourself when you’re pulled over and you are carrying concealed. The Philando Castille shooting shed one hell of a spotlight for CCWs everywhere about how to conduct yourself, including prompting the State of Arizona to include it in their official publications.

So after the initial statements about why I was being pulled over, I mentioned why I was speeding around him and everyone else, and he asked for my driver’s license. I had my hands in plain sight the entire time, as did my wife.

I replied by saying, “First I need to inform you that I do have a weapon.” This is not required under Kansas law, but I’ve said and will always say to volunteer that information up front anyway.

He said simply “Okay”. “How do you want to continue?” I asked in return. He asked if I had a concealed carry permit – not required in Kansas, but having it shows you’re serious about concealed carry – and I said I do.

“I’ll tell you what, you don’t show me yours, and I won’t show you mine.”

My wife and I had a good chuckle about that for the first few miles after the stop. And my wife posted about it to Facebook as well.

While I went for my license, he asked what I carry, which is a Glock 19, Gen 4. Didn’t mention ammo, but for those curious, I currently carry Federal Personal Defense HST 9mm 124gr. But the officer promptly showed approval of my pistol choice – wouldn’t expect anything less, given the Glock 19’s high popularity among officers for off-duty carry. I also have a Glock 23, Gen 4, but don’t carry it currently.

And if you carry a 1911, you’re not going to have this officer’s seal of approval on that one.

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Defending AlphaCool and the risks of water cooling

Four years ago, in late March 2014, I had my first attempt at a water-cooled system. Using my wife’s computer as the guinea pig.

About two months later, I posted pictures showcasing the aftermath of a failure in one of AlphaCool’s water blocks. And I’ve shown those pictures on other forums as one of the potential dangers of custom water cooling. Since then, my story has been used as a reason to not buy AlphaCool’s water cooling products. Or to not water cool at all.

In late 2016 on an Overclock.net thread, user Rockzzz said this:

I returned the item for a refund in the end, 3 days ago, because I’ve no trust : simply said, if there are no risks, as alphacool claims, alphacool should have no problem granting a real responsibility and warranty.

And there truely were more than “risks” in the past: https://www.kennethballard.com/?p=886 . It took this guy like 6 monthes to get the issue warranted and sorted out, and seeing the pictures he shew, damage seem pretty bad and obvious. Of course, there was no certainty for the disaster being caused by the cooler, and yeah, it does not say-it-all for the whole product line. But I’m not sure alphacool sells a lot all-in-all.

And later said this:

And they’re probably as much afraid of the insurance-fraud-guy as I am of the possible unreliability of their product line.

If they face a dishonest guy deliberately and slightly unscrewing a hose, just to get it leaking on the remains of his PC, then requesting a full RMA of his build, this becomes very annoying for them.

For what I’m concerned, yeah indeed, I won’t use watercooling until I’m in need of serious overclocking and until the PC-build-value/warranty is not a worry anymore.

This thread was about the AlphaCool Eisbaer expandable AIO. Which deviates significantly from the custom water loop that suffered catastrophic damage, with AlphaCool’s CPU block being the culprit as far as I could tell.

That said, let me make this clear: AlphaCool was in no way responsible for how long it took for me to resolve the issue. That fell entirely on the liability insurance company.

As such the only part in that situation where I fault AlphaCool is not informing me in advance they were handing it off to their liability insurance company. And I feel they did that to avoid making any statements to me that could be construed as admitting liability. Even mentioning that they’re handing it over could be interpreted as an admission of liability.

Prior to handing the case over, AlphaCool was stellar in their response. They seemed just as interested in finding out why one of their products failed in a catastrophic manner.

But once they handed it over to the insurance company, it was out of AlphaCool’s hands. Meaning their liability insurance carrier, Westfälische Provinzial Versicherung AG (Westphalia Provincial Insurance), bears full responsibility for the claim not being resolved in a more reasonable time frame. Especially since they initially claimed I used fittings that I never actually used, a fact claim made in contradiction of all evidence.

* * * * *

Custom water cooling is not without its risks. And at the time I published what happened, catastrophic failures were continually insinuated as a risk of water cooling, but virtually no one had shown one. And I changed that. Showing the pictures of the damage, describing what happened, and reporting on the progress of the claim and its final resolution.

Something that had been continually insinuated as a real risk of water cooling now had pictures to go with it.

But I posted all of that more to explain how to handle the situation, should it arise. Don’t panic. Take lots of pictures. Assess the extent of the damage. And, of utmost importance, keep calm and collected when writing e-mails. In my instance, I didn’t write any e-mails until several days later, after I’d fully assessed the situation and identified what hardware would need to be replaced.

Let me make this abundantly clear: the risk of that actually happening is very low. Arguably lower now than it was four years ago. Provided you take all the proper precautions, starting with picking quality parts. I even specifically said, when deciding to go with Koolance for the CPU block over going back to AlphaCool, that what happened was a “one in a million” chance.

The progression on Absinthe, now Amethyst, and other water-cooled builds including Beta Orionis and Desert Sapphire show that I did not let this one setback dissuade me entirely with AlphaCool. I’ve used several of their products without issue. Indeed the AlphaCool CPU block is the only AlphaCool product with which I’ve had any issue.

AlphaCool’s products have otherwise been a great value, overall. Their fittings tend to be much less expensive than the competition but still work very well.

Amethyst, the successor to Absinthe, has several AlphaCool products, all of which came from Absinthe and its predecessor. The D5 pump is AlphaCool branded, and the pump housing is AlphaCool. The 90° female-to-female G¼ fittings are all AlphaCool. As are the radiators: XT45 triple-120mm on the top, ST30 dual-120mm on the floor. Their radiators are some of the best performing radiators you can buy.

The AlphaCool CPU block was the only product of theirs that has ever presented any kind of problem. And as far as I’m aware, I am the only publicly-documented case of someone experiencing a catastrophic failure.

* * * * *

To repeat, and repeat, and repeat, since it must always be said: custom water cooling has risks that you won’t find with AIOs and air cooling. And AIOs still have a risk you won’t find with air cooling. That’s just the nature of the beast. And if you decide to custom water cool your system, you must be open to accepting and accounting for that risk.

Which, above all else, is what I intended to showcase: the risk involved. The very, very low risk involved provided you, again, take all proper precautions, starting with selecting quality parts.

And taking your time.

And double-checking everything thoroughly.

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Gun control States are robbery-friendly States

In continuing the analysis of gun control laws and violent crime, let’s turn our attention to robbery rates. Source for the robbery rates comes from the FBI Uniform Crime Report for 2016, Table 3. And this time I’m grouping the States by their grade from the Giffords anti-gun group for 2016.

Now the Giffords group gives States a letter grade, ranging from A to F. California is the only State with an A, and half the States (25) have an F rating. Numerically for any trend calculations, I substituted the letter grades for these numbers: A = 2, A- = 3, B+ = 4 … D- = 12, F = 13.

One of the leading arguments in favor of concealed carry and the right to bear arms is the ability to defend yourself and others. The idea of the shop keeper with a shotgun behind the counter, for example. And the carrier of a concealed weapon using that to deter a mugging on the street.

I’ve already shown that gun control laws largely do not affect violent crime overall. Robbery, however, is different.

For this analysis, I grouped together all States with similar letter grades into one grouping to eliminate situations wherein only one or two States had a particular grade. For example California is the only State with an A, so I grouped it with all States with an A- rating. This provided five groups.

Grade level Median Mean Min Max
A 100.4 106.9 69.6 171
B 108.4 102.7 51.1 142.7
C 69.6 86.1 36.6 215.6
D 74.6 74.8 32 110.5
F 80.2 72.1 10.1 131.5
Overall 79.5 81.95 10.1 215.6

That’s a pretty steady progression on the mean and minimum robbery rates based on grade level. As the gun laws loosen, the risk of being a robbery victim steadily goes down.

Now two things to point out. The 215.6 robbery rate – Nevada – is an obvious outlier looking at the data. Without it, the range goes up to 171, which is Maryland. But the overall mean and median don’t drop much: 78.8 and 79.2, respectively.

And then there’s the fact that A and B States do not have robbery rates going below 50.0 robberies per 100,000. The highest-graded State with a robbery rate below 50.0 is Iowa at 36.6 and graded at a C. And that’s the only State above a D with that low of a rate.

The States with the five highest robbery rates are Nevada (215.6, C-), Maryland (171, A-), Delaware (142.7, B-), California (139.6, A), and Illinois (139.3, B). The States with the five lowest robbery rates are all States scored at F: Wyoming (10.1), Idaho (12.7), Vermont (17.0), Maine (20), and North Dakota (23.9).

In short, you infringe on someones’ right to bear arms through onerous gun control laws, and you make the law abiding more likely to be robbery victims.

But this isn’t the end of the story. As I’ve pointed out before, the FBI further divides the violent crime rates – robbery included – by “Metropolitan Statistical Area”, “Cities outside metropolitan areas”, and “Nonmetropolitan counties”. Here the numbers definitely show that robbery is a metropolitan problem.

Cities outside metropolitan areas:

Grade level Median Mean Min Max
A 36.3 63.5 22.9 115.3
B 39.8 39.8 28.3 51.4
C 21.1 23.8 10.2 43.2
D 39.4 53.3 17.4 134.8
F 44.1 56.2 10.9 150.2
Overall 36.5 50.0 10.2 150.2

These States did not have data available for this: Hawaii (A-), New Jersey (A-), Rhode Island (B+), Delaware (B), Indiana (D-), and Arizona (F).

Not nearly as clean a progression here. The numbers show though that you’ll tend to have lower robbery rates in the States rated at C. For all other grades, it’s a mixed bag, though some D and F-rated States do have lower robbery rates than A and B-rated States, and the highest rates are seen with D and F-rated States.

Overall, though, it’s about all over the place. The R² score was 0.0078, meaning no inference can be drawn about how well a State is rated versus that State’s robbery rate.

The five (5) States with the highest robbery rates in this group for robbery rate are Georgia (F, 111.3), California (A, 115.3), North Carolina (D-, 134.8), Mississippi (F, 142.4), and South Carolina (F, 150.2). The five (5) States with the lowest robbery rates are Wisconsin (C-, 10.2), Wyoming (F, 10.9), Idaho (F, 12.5), Michigan (C, 13.1), and Utah (F, 14.8).

Note as well that all States with a robbery rate under 25.0 are all graded C+ or lower with the exception of Massachusetts, which is graded at an A-. Of all the States with a robbery rate that is below the average for “Cities outside metropolitan areas”, all but 4 are graded at C+ or lower.

Metropolitan Statistical Area:

Grade level Median Mean Min Max
A 100.4 111.8 77.9 174.2
B 113.0 108.0 51.0 154.9
C 85.0 100.7 52.3 235.8
D 86.5 90.1 39.2 137.8
F 94.2 90.7 15.1 211.5
Overall 93.3 96.6 15.1 235.8

Here the correlation seen from the combined rates in the first table are a little more prominent. On the average and minimum values, we see a clear downward progression as the grades go from A to F. The R² score 0.0222, which basically means while States graded lower have a tendency for lower robbery rates, there isn’t really any predictive value that can be garnered here. The most we can say is that States with looser gun laws tend to have lower robbery rates in their metro areas.

This is reflected by the fact the five (5) States with the lowest robbery rate in this category are all rated F: Idaho (15.1), Wyoming (16.7), Vermont (24.8), Maine (25.1), and North Dakota (36.6). Indeed 7 of the 8 States with the lowest robbery rates in this category are all rated F, with the loner being New Hampshire rated with a D.

The five (5) States with the highest robbery rates in this category are Illinois (B+, 154.9), New Mexico (F, 173.5), Maryland (A-, 174.3), Alaska (F, 211.5), and Nevada (C-, 235.8). California comes in at No. 8 when sorting States by their robbery rates in descending order.

Nonmetropolitan counties:

Grade level Median Mean Min Max
A 9.20 18.0 6.68 33.5
B 7.25 7.25 7.04 7.46
C 5.00 6.83 1.61 15.1
D 9.29 10.6 2.75 22.5
F 9.45 11.6 1.25 41.7
Overall 7.70 11.1 1.25 41.7

These States did not have data available for this: Massachusetts (A-), New Jersey (A-), Rhode Island (B+), Delaware (B), Idaho (F), and Arizona (F).

This is very similar to what was observed with the “Cities outside metropolitan areas” chart, with States rated at a C being the overall best States in this group. But the D and F-rated States again show a tendency to have lower robbery rates than A and B-rated States given the minimum values. The R² value is 0.0068 – virtually no predictive value. In part due to how infrequent robberies are in non-metro/rural areas.

The five States with the lowest robbery rates in this category are Wyoming (F, 1.25), Iowa (C, 1.61), South Dakota (F, 2.62), Nebraska (D, 2.75), and Minnesota (C+, 3.58). The five States with the highest robbery rates in this category are Florida (F, 24.4), Mississippi (F, 26.2), California (A, 33.0), Hawaii (A-, 33.6), and South Carolina (F, 41.7).

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Volunteer distributed computing is important

Cryptocurrencies have enjoyed much the focus over the last couple years – and especially over the last 12 months – with regard to distributed computing. When I first started “putting spare hardware to work”, my initial focus was not on cryptocurrencies, but volunteer distributed computing. I did get involved in Ethereum mining for a short while, but backed out of it in February due to it no longer really being worth it, and migrated the processing back over to volunteer distributed computing.

With many of the projects, however, it can be difficult to actually see whether a difference is being made. Many projects on the Berkeley network – BOINC – show that your computing is making a difference. Two projects in particular have shown me such results: GPUGrid and PrimeGrid.

In the user profile for GPUGrid is a small widget to the right called “Contribution to scientific publications”. And recently I discovered a credit:

I’ll spare the jargon from the paper and summarize with this. The research in question focused on the CXCL12 monomer. If you look that up on Wikipedia, and go to the sections on clinical significance, you’ll see two things of note: Multiple Sclerosis and Alzheimer’s Disease. The research in the paper centered more specifically around molecular simulations with that monomer as part of “fragment-based drug discovery“.

Where will that research go? I have no idea. But this is just one example of some of what is coming about due to distributed computing.

Along with GPUGrid, I also contribute to Folding@Home, with a pair of GTX 1060s that were previously used for Ethereum mining now contributing to that distributed computing network. Unfortunately there is no way to know to what research I’ve contributed through them.

But imagine what good could come if even a small portion of the computing power that goes toward cryptocurrency mining were instead turned toward Folding@Home or GPUGrid…

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New virtualization server

Recently I discussed my move from VMware’s ESXi virtualization setup to Proxmox. In that article, I discussed eventually migrating everything from the existing setup – an old HP Z600 with dual Xeon E5520s – to a new setup.

Or at least newer:

  • CPUs: 2xAMD Opteron 6278
  • Cooling: Noctua NH-U9DO A3
  • Mainboard: ASUS KGPE-D16
  • RAM: 32GB DDR3 (not ECC)
  • Chassis: PlinkUSA IPC-E450B (also available in red or blue)
  • Storage: Samsung 850 EVO M.2 500GB
ASUS KGPE-D16
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Eventually I’ll be putting more more memory into this, but with DDR3 prices suffering the same fate as DDR4 right now, it’ll be interesting. I’m still looking to add another 16GB (2x8GB) to max out the ECC RAM on my NAS. Perhaps some more eBay shopping is in order. Anyway…

The Opteron 6278 is a Bulldozer processor (like the FX-8100 series) part of the Interlagos lineup. It has 16 cores at 2.4GHz, can turbo up to 3.3GHz (full-load turbo is 2.7GHz), 115W TDP, and was released in 2012. There are mainboards that can take four (4) of these. As tempting as that was, I didn’t need or want to go that far. The dual-processor mainboards were expensive enough. As were the processors – they still go for more than 100 USD each.

The dual Xeon E5520 gives 16 logical processors – 4 cores each with HyperThreading. The dual Opteron 6278 gives 32 cores, more than doubling my current processor capacity – HyperThreading isn’t the same thing has having two physical cores.

While ECC is recommended, the mainboard and processors support non-ECC RAM, up to 8GB per module, 64GB per processor. Same if using unregistered ECC RAM. If using registered ECC, it supports up to 16GB per module, 128GB per processor.

Speaking of eBay

I acquired the processors and mainboard through eBay. About the only place I wasn’t going to spend an arm and a leg for the hardware. Though I still kind of did. And I had a couple unexpected extras with the mainboard.

The seller shipped it with two Operon 6128 processors – 8 cores each, part of the “Magny-Cours” lineup released in 2010. But the bigger surprise was discovering it also came with an ASUS ASMB4 iKVM module.

Dual sockets means dual 8-pin EPS sockets. The power supply I was using for the initial testing had only one EPS plug. Micro Center to the rescue with an 8-pin EPS Y-splitter.

But the mainboard proved to be a little bit of a pain.

My initial testing was with just one processor. Mainly because I had only one adequate cooler lying around that I could stick to it – for those wondering, it was the AMD stock cooler they distributed with the FX-8350 when I bought it in 2013. But despite every attempt – resetting CMOS, even popping the battery (which I would later discover was dead) – I couldn’t get the damn thing to POST.

But several steps managed to get it to respond. I’m not sure how, but at least it worked.

First I removed everything from the mainboard – no CPUs, no RAM – and attempted to power on the board. As expected, nothing. So I seated one of the 6128s – no heatsink, as this was just a test – and attempted to power on. One long, two short beeps: RAM not detected. Finally getting somewhere!

Replaced the 6128 with one of the 6278 processors and attempted power on. Same result. Added in the pair of RAM modules in the slots the manual suggested, added the heatsink and fan for good measure. And it responded and POSTed.

And when I got into the BIOS setup screen, I discovered the board had already been updated to the latest BIOS revision available. But testing didn’t end there since I had two CPUs to test. The second one worked as well, and I found a second FX-8350 cooler to temporarily use with it to make sure all 32 cores would be detected.

Fedora 27 Live is painful with the onboard VGA. Which uses only 8MB RAM. Wrap your head around that. Hell the first graphics card I owned was a 1MB PCI graphics card. That’s right, not PCI-Express. PCI. That was in a used 486 machine I bought almost 20 years ago.

Selecting the chassis and cooling

Let’s talk abbreviations for a moment.

The mainboard I selected is an EEB mainboard, which is basically an E-ATX board with two sockets. It is a standard E-ATX size: 13″x12″. So I need a chassis that supports that size. There are several desktop chassis that do – my wife’s Corsair 750D being one.

But since I have a rack, might as well go with a rack chassis. To that end, I went back to PlinkUSA. Seems to be a pattern. Specifically looking at their IPC-E450 along with a set of rails. The chassis is 4U and about 18″ long – seems kind of short for a 13″ mainboard, and I do regret in part using that chassis.

On cooling the Opterons, I had really only two options. Perhaps three. I say perhaps as the last option was water cooling, specifically using two Koolance CPU-380A blocks and the G34 mounting bolts. EK does have a version of their Supremacy for C32 and G34 sockets, provided you can find it, but I still have two Koolance blocks from a previous version of Absinthe and β Ori.

On the air cooling front supporting 115W processors, the options are also very thin unless you try to DIY something. Two companies still have options available: Noctua and Dynatron:

The Dynatron options were intriguing at first, mainly because of their price, but I was concerned with noise. So I decided to spring for the Noctua cooler, specifically the NH-U9DO A3, ordering through QuietPC. The NH-U12DO FAQ says to not use it in a 4U chassis unless you can guarantee clearance.

Storage options and building the system

Due to the layout of the mainboard and the coolers I chose, the chassis basically had to be stripped down to practically nothing. And upon noticing that standoffs were needed for the mainboard, I was glad to go with the 92mm fan Noctua cooler instead of the 120mm fan cooler. Again, don’t use the 120mm version in a 4U chassis unless you can guarantee clearance.

Stripping the chassis down to nothing also meant no place to mount storage. While I’ve had loose SSDs in builds before, I didn’t want the extra cables if I could avoid it. But since this mainboard predates M.2 slots, I couldn’t take the SSD out of its M.2 to SATA enclosure. So what to do instead?

The only other option, then, was using a PCI-E card for 2.5″ SATA drives. Getting rid of cables isn’t the only reason for this. I’m using a Samsung 850 EVO M.2, which is a SATA III SSD, and the SATA ports on the mainboard are only SATA II. So the PCI-E card will at least allow the card to achieve almost it’s full throughput. The bottleneck isn’t significant, certainly not worth paying twice as much for the x2 card to alleviate.

For networking I grabbed a dual-port 10GbE SFP+ card left over from my attempt at a custom 10GbE switch. Currently only one of the ports is plugged into the switch, but the other will be plugged up once I get cables for that. Yes, cables. Plural. As the only spare cable I had that could reach is 10m. I need a couple 2m cables – one to alleviate tension on the cable connecting the NAS – along with LC keystone couplers to use the patch panel on the rack.

Initially I had the cards in the blue PCI-E slots on the mainboard, with the 10GbE card in the slot nearest the processors. The system wouldn’t POST doing this, and would only keep resetting when initializing the network card. So I swapped them around and put the SATA card nearest the CPUs.

Finished system

With everything working, I put the system into the rack and installed ProxMox VE – by the way, using DD mode with Rufus works for generating an installation USB.

Once that was installed it was a matter of recreating the four VMs I initially had on the system. With the Docker system, it was easy to recreate the Docker containers from backups. The Plex server was easy to restore as well.

So what do I have planned for this?

I wanted more processor room to run small virtual clusters with Apache Mesos, Docker Swarm, MPI, and things like that. And I may pull the Z600 machine back online for a similar purpose rather than getting rid of it completely. Whatever I do will likely be the subject of future articles, so stay tuned.

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The strange case of Dana Loesch and Genevieve Curran

Which is, rather, a strange case of mistaken identity.

For at least the last week on Twitter, many have been pushing around pictures of Genevieve Curran as if they’re pictures of Dana Loesch. And the pictures are provocative, and intended to make Loesch look like a conservative hypocrite – standing up for “traditional values” while posing scantily clad.

Though the language going with some of the Twitter posts has certainly been… of the variety that it’d likely violate my web host’s terms of service should I reproduce it here.

The picture being most passed around is from Curran’s 2013 photo shoot for Australia’s ZOO WEEKLY magazine:

So not only are leftists trying to “slut shame” a woman, they’re going about it in a completely bass-ackwards way, by misappropriating the pictures of an Australian model and acting like they’re pictures of Loesch.

Dana’s husband, Chris Loesch, and one other person have managed to reach out to Genevieve through her Instagram. No word yet on what kind of response Miss Curran will have with regard to this. Regardless of her point of view on firearms and the NRA, it’s definitely clear – and certainly expected – that she does not like her picture being misappropriated in the fashion it has been.

Welcome to the Internet, I guess…

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Migrating a Plex Media Server to another system

Note: This is a how-to for migrating a Plex Media Server from one Linux system to another Linux system. This is not about changing platforms.

Recently I migrated my ProxMox virtualization host from a dual Xeon system (HP Z600) to a dual Opteron 6278 system to have more cores. One of the VMs to be migrated was a Plex Media Server instance.

Both the origin and destination systems are Fedora 27 Server, but this should also work across distributions. As you’ll see, it’s quite easy.

Backing up the server

First step is to back up the library on the original server. As root or an administrator, after stopping Plex Media Server:

cd /var/lib
tar cvf plexmediaserver.tar plexmedia/
gzip plexmediaserver.tar

This should give you a .tar.gz backup of your Plex instance. I have a pretty large library – over 300 movies and specials, over 300 music albums, and 29 TV shows, most of which are complete series (and yes, I own physical copies or licenses to everything on it) – so my backup ended up being about 1.5GB. Your mileage may vary.

My Plex server pulled from NFS shares on my NAS, so I made sure to also copy off the relevant fstab entries so I could restore them.

Transfer the backup file off the server somehow and shut it down.

On the new server

On the new server or virtual machine with Linux installed and updated, install Plex Media Server but do NOT start it. Instead run these commands:

cd /var/lib
rm -rf plexmediaserver #Don't worry, it's empty.
cp path/to/plexmediaserver.tar.gz .
tar xvfz plexmediaserver.tar.gz

Make sure to also restore the links to any network shares. Now you can start the new server:

systemctl enable plexmediaserver #if you haven't yet done this
systemctl start plexmediaserver

Make sure to add the needed ports to your firewall: you must open 32400/TCP, and if you intend to use DLNA, you need to open 1900/UDP and 32469/TCP.

Log into the Plex server when you’re done and try playing something to verify everything works. It should be exactly as you left it. And any DLNA links on media players should still work as the UUID for the server should have been retained.

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Self-sufficiency

From an article in the New York Times called “The Boys Are Not All Right“:

Too many boys are trapped in the same suffocating, outdated model of masculinity, where manhood is measured in strength, where there is no way to be vulnerable without being emasculated, where manliness is about having power over others.

This seems to be the common definition of masculinity. Strength and power. This is reflected in numerous ways, in particular with the feminist idea of “patriarchy”, and the constant ways that masculinity is badgered and belittled by feminists in the name of “equality”. And it’s also reflected in the recent debate about gun rights, such as with the headline from Slate, “Why are conservatives so obsessed with gun rights anyway?

The one idea largely missing from these discussions explains both, as I explained on Twitter in response to someone who shared the above New York Times article:

[M]anhood isn’t defined by strength and power. It’s defined by being self-sufficient. And not just in earnings and providing for home and family, but also not having to call on someone else to do what you need done – to a reasonable extent.

Self-sufficiency.

A firearm allows for self-sufficiency in many ways. Defense of your home. Out in the middle of nowhere, such as where my parents live, it’s essential to have a firearm for defending yourself and your family. Since out there, the police are not getting to you in time.

Being for less government means being more for self-sufficiency.

Out in rural America, boys and girls both are taught from a young age how to do a lot of things. Because driving somewhere to have it done for you may not always be an option in the same way as in suburban and urban America, such as where I live.

To survive in rural America means to do without a lot of options, giving up a lot of convenience. It means you have to know how to better provide for yourself.

I saw this during my last drive out to Las Vegas, a trip I’ll be repeating in the coming months. In particular along US-54 between Emporia, Kansas, and Tucumcari, New Mexico. And really in particular with Nara Visa, New Mexico. Google that place to see just what I mean. Passing through, I think they had…. a few businesses, and a hundred people. The place looked pretty run down.

And then there’s the drive along I-40 between Tucumcari, New Mexico, and Kingman, Arizona, before turning north toward Boulder City. Talk about long stretches of…. nothing. There’s a sense of independence living out there, but it requires being self-sufficient. There is a lot of convenience you are giving up living out there.

And if you talk to the men who live out in that area, they can show you how self-sufficient they are. Probably teach you some tricks they’ve picked up along the way. These are people who would rather do their own basic auto maintenance than pay someone else to do it. Why drive a half an hour to the nearest town only to wait to have the work done when you can do it on your own time as needed, so long as you remembered to pick up oil on your last trip into town?

Same with home repairs. They won’t wait for someone else to do it, unless what they’re trying to do may result in the house burning down or blowing up. And even then, they’d probably still risk it.

For those of you living in the urban areas, how many people do you know that barely know how to use simple tools – screwdriver, wrench, pliers, etc.? Out in the rural areas, not knowing how to use simple tools is emasculating, whereas in the urban areas, it’s normal.

Out in the rural areas, you have a firearm because you can’t call the police in a pinch. In the urban areas, you’re still at the mercy of a response time, but you just might live through it.

Yet all too often, people from urban and suburban areas try to tell rural people how to live when, in actuality, it should be the other way around. To be urban and suburban is to be less self-sufficient, largely because you don’t need to be. Convenience is all around you, a phone call or short drive away.

And the greatest sign of how self-insufficient we’ve become as a society… our continual deference to government. Letting government solve problems rather than looking to community. And increasingly more are turning to the Federal government for this instead of their local governments.

Where we lose self-sufficiency, we gain big government. Trading rights and general liberty for convenience and the illusion of safety.

And people wonder why we have a crisis of masculinity in the United States.

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Analysis of gun laws and violent crime

I’ve done previous analyses on the Brady scoring for various gun laws and how they relate to suicide rates in various States. To briefly recap previous articles, stronger gun laws overall don’t make much of a difference in whether a State has a lower suicide rate.

Now I’m going to take a look at violent crime and gun laws. Since a significant portion of vioelnt crime is committed with a firearm, having stronger gun laws should translate into lower violent crime rates. Or that is the assertion.

For the violent crime rates, I’m using the FBI Uniform Crime Report for 2016, specifically Table 3. Since the Brady Campaign never scored Puerto Rico and Washington, DC, those are excluded from this analysis. The Brady score is along the X-axis, violent crime rate per 100,000 along the Y-axis. I used the raw scoring, not the “curve” scoring, to avoid any bias.

That looks pretty well all over the place.

And the regression score is -0.0184. Virtually no measurable correlation. Gun laws, or at least how the Brady Campaign has scored them, largely do not make a difference in the violent crime rates for the State.

But that isn’t the end of this analysis. The FBI Uniform Crime Report separates out the violent crime rates for metropolitan areas, cities outside the immediate metropolitan area, and non-metropolitan counties. Let’s start with the Metropolitan Statistical Area.

The one outlier in the upper left is Alaska. And this again looks all over the place. Virtually no correlation as well with a regression score of -0.0304. Take out Alaska and it’s super high crime rate, and the regression falls to -0.0153. In both cases, it’s clear that gun laws don’t make a difference with regard to violent crime in metropolitan areas.

Next are Cities Outside Metropolitan Areas. Delaware, New Jersey, Hawaii, and Rhode Island from this analysis due to non-reporting of necessary data.

And in this chart, the outlier all the way at the upper left is Arizona. And that really skews the regression, putting it at -0.0356. Still low enough to say confidently there is no correlation here to be had, though just the look if the chart shows this. Remove the outlier and it becomes -0.0277.

Last is Non-metropolitan Counties. Delaware, Rhode Island, and New Jersey are again excluded due to non-reporting. Non-metropolitan counties are going to include small towns and largely rural areas. Two ready examples are Clarke County, Iowa, and Nemaha County, Nebraska, two counties in which I’ve previously resided.

And again, no obvious correlation from the graph. And no significant outliers this time. Regression score is -0.0334. The strongest of the regressions when accounting for outliers in the previous categories, but still so small that we can basically say there is no correlation.

So the state of a State’s gun laws is not a predictor in whether a State has a low or high violent crime rate. The data do not support the claim that stronger gun laws will result in lower violent crime rates.

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