December 14, 2004
Video of Self-Armored Humvee
Salon has video from an upcoming documentary showing how soldiers "uparmored" their Humvee using scrap metal found in Iraq: Sneak peek: "Gunner Palace".
December 13, 2004
Schneier's Security Advice
Crypto and security expert Bruce Schneier offers a good list of suggestions to improve one's Internet security. Most of these are Windows-specific (don't use Internet Explorer, don't open joke emails or other forwarded material with attachments, etc.), but it's a good list for Mac and Linux users, too.
December 12, 2004
Take Control of Recording with GarageBand
I mentioned that I was editing three Take Control ebooks, and now the third has just hit: Jeff Tolbert's Take Control of Recording with GarageBand. I'm not a musician (though I've recently started to take up the guitar), but I can see how someone with desire and $10 can make professional-sounding recordings using GarageBand and some relatively inexpensive gear. This ebook is as much about recording sound as it is about recording it in GarageBand; Jeff gives great advice on microphone placement and buying a preamp, for example, while also detailing the steps required to record the audio from your electric guitar's pickup. From the ebook's Web page:
Want to record music with GarageBand? This ebook explains how to use GarageBand to create musical compositions with vocals, drums, guitars, MIDI keyboards, even the kitchen sink! Seattle musician Jeff Tolbert shares his GarageBand know-how and years of recording experience to help you get the most out of your existing gear or purchase new equipment that fits your budget and style. You'll find real-world recording studio techniques, learn how to use a microphone, and discover how to apply effects like a pro. Clear steps and plenty of practical advice help you plan a recording session, record with Software Instruments or Real Instruments, and rerecord if you make a mistake. Two example songs demonstrate many of the techniques discussed. Bonus! Linked-in audio lets you listen to examples while you read about them. Remember us when you're famous!
Note that you if you don't own Jeff's first GarageBand title, Take Control of Making Music with GarageBand, you can save $2.50 when you buy both.
Now, I get some sleep.
Take Control of Buying a Digital Camera
A couple weeks ago, I praised caffeine because I was consuming so much espresso while simultaneously editing three Take Control ebooks. I'm happy to say that I've been able to get some sleep this last week (which is a change -- at one point I slept 8 hours, not consecutively, over a 72 hour period).
The fruits of that labor? On Friday we published Take Control of Buying a Digital Camera, by professional photographer (and now author) Laurence Chen. Although I've purchased a few digital cameras, I learned a lot editing this $5 title. For example, the photography specifications that used to make my eyes glaze over (especially the millimeter measurements of lenses and their zoom capacities) are now comprehensible! Larry reveals that buying a digital camera is a process, not a wild accumulation of marketing bullets. Here's the blurb about this excellent ebook:
Overwhelmed by choices when purchasing a digital camera? Turn to professional photographer Larry Chen for the practical advice you need to sort through the hundreds of digital cameras for sale.
Rather than bury you with arcane technical details or a myriad camera models, Larry first steps you through a process designed to help you determine how much you want to spend, what sort of pictures you're likely to take, and what aspects of using a camera are important to you. With that grounding, you're ready to learn about the different camera features, separated by those that are actually important and those that merely fill up feature checklists. The ebook even contains a camera comparison worksheet you can fill in while shopping. Additional sections give you pointers on how to read camera reviews (plus a list of the best review sites!), advice about evaluating picture quality, suggestions of where to buy your camera, the lowdown on accessories you might want, and tips on working with photos on your computer.
Includes a coupon worth $5 off any order at Small Dog Electronics, making this ebook free if you buy your camera from Small Dog!
December 10, 2004
Army Seeks More Armored Humvees
CNN reports: Army seeks more armored Humvees. This is good to see, but it's terrible that it didn't happen until it became a public relations problem.
The U.S. Army is renegotiating with a Florida company to increase production of uparmored Humvees from 450 a month up to 550 a month, a senior Pentagon official said Friday.
... The Army said that until the issue this week, it was unaware that Armor Holdings could refit more vehicles. The Army said it thought that the company had commitments to other customers.
The Army may have been unaware of the company's capacity, but surely they've been aware of the lack of equipment. For almost two years. Is Armor Holdings the only company that can add armor to combat vehicles?
December 09, 2004
Shifting the Blame, and Bush Lies Again
Following the flap where a soldier asked Rumsfeld about the lack of armor for troops, I see that the current news is that a reporter planted GI's question for Rumsfeld. By doing so, the Pentagon and the White House want to make people think it was an attack on a member of the administration, and forget that it's a legitimate question. I hope it doesn't work, because it's a damn legitimate question.
It also provides yet another opportunity for the President to lie to the American people; only this time it hurts more because he's lying to troops and families of troops:
In a separate article, Bush said:
"The concerns expressed are being addressed, and that is, we expect our troops to have the best possible equipment," Mr. Bush said. "And I have told many families I met with, we're doing everything we possibly can to protect your loved ones in a mission which is vital and important."
If he said this in May 2003, I could partially understand; it's not easy to send equipment to a war zone (for now, let's leave out the fact that a properly prepared military force with a clear plan for winning the peace should not have been deployed until the armor was there). But after 21 months of American occupation, there is simply no justification at all for not having fully-equipped, fully-armored troops and vehicles. None. If Bush were doing "everything" he possibly could, the question would not have come up in the first place.
Armor Shortage Is Pentagon's Fault
Found on Atrios: Despite Rumsfeld's comment that the government is working as hard as it can to provide armor for troops, actual capacity is only 75 percent, and the sole manufacturer of body armor is just waiting for the Pentagon to place an order. The American Street » what price physics?.
Armor Holdings Inc., the sole supplier of protective plates for the Humvee military vehicles used in Iraq, said it could increase output by as much as 22 percent per month with no investment and is awaiting an order from the Army.
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said yesterday the Army was working as fast as it can and supply is dictated by “a matter of physics, not a matter of money."
Damn it! Can't these guys do anything right? There is ZERO excuse for not running those factories day and night to protect our troops.
December 08, 2004
Rumsfeld Should Go
If there's any doubt that the Bush administration values loyalty over competence, look to Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. No post-invasion plan for Iraq, Abu Graib, and now a complete lack of regard for the troops he's sending to a war zone.
One soldier, identified by The Associated Press as Army Spc. Thomas Wilson of the 278th Regimental Combat Team, asked Rumsfeld why more military combat vehicles were not reinforced for battle conditions.
"Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to uparmor our vehicles?" he asked, prompting cheers from other soldiers attending the event.
In April, the Pentagon said it was spending $400 million to replace the Army's thin-skinned Humvees in Iraq with the so-called "uparmored" reinforced versions.
"As you know, you have to go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you want," Rumsfeld said.
He added, "You can have all the armor in the world on a tank, and it can [still] be blown up."
These aren't American soldiers to Rumsfeld; they're fodder, numbers on a balance sheet. I don't care if the Pentagon is spending money to uparmor its gear: that's the type of thing that should happen before we send troops into combat. What, did they think there would be no opposition?
Well, yes, that seems to be exactly what they thought. Idiots. You can have the most highly-trained, technically-savvy combat force in the world, but it's dumbasses like Rumsfeld who get our soldiers killed.
(Keep that in mind, 18-year-old males; instead of thinking, "The war will be over by the time a draft begins," the reality is going to be, "They might have enough body armor available by the time I get sent over." What's that you say? The president said there'd be no draft? I predict call-ups by late 2005, though of course the administration will invent some new term that doesn't make it seem like a draft.)
December 03, 2004
Take Control of Mac OS X Backups
I'm particularly fond of this subject, because I've been there, done that: a few years ago I suffered a catastrophic hard drive crash, with no backups in sight. (You can read the full story here: DriveSavers to the Rescue.) Believe me, the cost of setting up an effective backup system pales in comparison to the hours of inconvenience it takes to get your data back (and as a freelancer, my time is certainly worth money) and the cost of having your data professionaly recovered (for this service alone, plan at least $1,000 and go up from there).
After reading Joe's book, I was able to identify holes in my current system and patch them (such as maintaining both a duplicate and an archive of my PowerBook, and then another copy of each). Here's more information on the book, from the blurb:
Coming up with a reliable backup strategy might seem complicated, but in Take Control of Mac OS X Backups, backup expert and best-selling author Joe Kissell provides the straightforward advice you need to go beyond the false security of copying a few files to CD. Joe makes it easy to decide on a backup strategy that protects your data and enables nearly instant recovery, and he goes on to compare the pros and cons of each type of backup media, such as recordable CD, recordable DVD, tape, hard disk, and more.
Trust me, even if I wasn't involved in the creation of this book, the $10 you spend now will save you hundreds of dollars later by avoiding catastrophic data loss.