Concealed Carry and Gun Rights Laws

Recently, I was visiting the Wikipedia article on concealed carry laws, and I came across a GIF image that was animated to show each state's status regarding concealed carry laws. It was handy, except it went too fast for me to analyze. Here is each image embedded in the GIF:

This work was found on this Wikipedia article [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concealed_carry_in_the_United_States], and originally appeared on this website [http://www.gun-nuttery.com/rtc.php]. Use is free or restriction, therefore this derivative is also free of any restrictions.


eBay: fees, fees, and more fees.

I don't usually take to a blog to rant about how much I dislike a service, but my normal social media channels wouldn't accommodate the lengthy complaint I hoped to write. You see, my mother had a Microsoft Surface Pro 3, the latest generation as of this writing, that she had purchased in August of 2014 and barely used since then. She decided that it would be better if it were sold. Naturally, to make the sale, I turned to my old favorite: eBay. That was a mistake.

After reading through the fees that are associated with selling on eBay, I regretfully agreed to the 10% final listing value fee. Thinking all was good and well, I placed the Surface on eBay. A week later, it sold for $750. Subtract the 10% fee and I was looking at about $675... but when the money finally hit my PayPal account, I only saw $727.95! Apparently, there is a second fee to use the "preferred" method of payment, and it was around 3% of the final listing value. After calculating for shipping costs that include insurance and packaging materials, the net sale was below the $600 mark...

Moral of the story: eBay is not worthy as a selling platform. I am going to look into Amazon, Etsy, and other competitors and see how they stack against eBay / PayPal.


The Internet, the FCC, and Encryption

Well, it happened. Masquerading under the premise of "keeping the Internet free and open," the FCC just gave itself the power to regulate the already free and open Internet as if Internet Service Providers are Title II utilities. Basically, this translates to censorship and taxes across the board.

For awhile now, I have been experimenting with combinations of email clients, public-key cryptographic software, and different GUIs for managing encryption keys. Those experiments were taken off the back-burner today because of a new and real fear of parts of the Internet being exposed to unconstitutional searches.

The biggest difference between my newest attempt and previous attempts is that I recently purchased a MacBook Air, on which I have already encrypted the entire filesystem and all hard drives that use that computer. I found a lot of new software written exclusively for Mac OS X that integrates with the OS. One application in particular is GPGTools.

GPGTools has a slick key manager GUI called GPG Keychain, and it also integrates itself into Mail.app, making sending and receiving encrypted email very easy. In fact, I am opined to say that this is the easiest implementation of GPG (Gnu Privacy Guard, a PGP [Pretty Good Privacy] compatible, open source software) that I have used to date.

On my Windows 7 computer, I have been using GPG on the backend and Cryptophane 0.7.0 as the key manager GUI to manage encryption, and Mozilla Thunderbird with the Enigmail plugin for sending and receiving encrypted emails. This combination works well, but leaves some to be desired, especially in the configuration department. The various parts of GPGTools work together out-of-the-box, making for a very enjoyable experience.

Please note that these two systems are compatible. Even if email is sent from a system that uses GPGTools and Mail.app, and that email is received by a system that uses GPG with Thunderbird / Enigmail, or vice versa, the email is encryptable and decryptable on both systems as long as both computers have the public key for decryption.

How Public-Key Encryption Works:

In public-key cryptography, a user generates two keys. a pair of public and private keys. The public key can be shared with anyone, but the private key is left on your own system only. The public key is used to encrypt the email that is being sent to someone else, and the private key is used to decrypt email that is sent to yourself.

The public key is typically uploaded to what is called a keyserver, a centralized place where anyone can upload their public keys for anyone else to download it. This is one of the ways to facilitate the sharing of one's public key so that others can begin sending secure email to oneself.

Public-key encryption allows for a secure way to transmit in clear-text what is needed for a person to encrypt and send secure information to another person without giving away the secret used to encrypt or decrypt the information. This is the type of encryption that websites use to secure your web surfing from cyber-eavesdroppers!

How to Get Started with GPG Email Encryption:

If you would like to start encrypting your email, check out the links below!

For Mac users, check out GPGTools.org. It is an all-in-one suite, so just download, install, and follow the tutorial!

For Windows users, check out GnuPG.org. It is the best resource to get you started. I also recommend grabbing the latest binary for GPG (as of the time of this post, it was v1.4.19), using Cryptophane as a GUI because it is probably the easiest to use of what I have seen, and lastly Enigmail extension for Thunderbird for securing email.

Sending Your First Secured Email:

Once you have your new encryption key pair generated and your mail client up and running, you will need to download public keys for other people so that you can send them email. You can do so by searching in the key management software that you recently installed. Try searching for mine using my email address, nick@novalan.org. If you find it, send me a secure email!


My new/old MacBook Air

While traveling home for Christmas, I suddenly got a spur-of-the-moment idea to buy a MacBook Air. I had thought about getting one for quite awhile, so long so that all of my friends jumped on the band-wagon before I could find one in my budget. Well, suddenly my budget was looking pretty flexible as a searched through multiple eBay listings.

I had found many different listings that looked promising, only to have a feature that wasn't what I wanted - an 11" screen instead of a 13" screen, or a 64GB SSD instead of a 128GB SSD. But I did not give up hope! I kept looking through listings until I came across one that met all my requirements, and it was within my budget. The only catch: it was a 2011-model that had some cosmetic wear and minor damage.

After bidding on it and eventually winning the auction, I received the MacBook Air in the mail. It had no accessories, not even a sleeve or original box - it simply came in bubble wrap and a cardboard shipping box. Appropriately for the season, I quickly dispensed of the wrappings like a kid during Christmas. Synchronously, I also opened the Amazon box that contained my replacement charger, and connected it to the half-charged Air. I was up but not yet running.

After downloading and installing a clean copy of OS X Yosemite, installing updates and software, and logging into iCloud, I was not only running, but running faster than I thought possible on a computer that is now three-and-a-half-years-old. This little bugger is fast! It has completely replaced my desktop and my other laptops as most-frequently-used-computer. Mac OS X Yosemite has something to do with this as it is a clean and simple interface that I found readily enjoyable for someone who has long beed a Windows (and sometimes Ubuntu) OS guy.

Speaking of Windows, Boot Camp made it a breeze to install Windows 7 64-bit, and VMware Fusion make it easy to run Windows software when I can't find a Mac alternative. All-in-all, it was a well-spent $450 to upgrade to something older than most of the other computers in my house.


  • Intel Core i5 1.7GHz CPU
  • 13" 1440x900 matte display
  • 4GBs of DDR3
  • 128GB SSD
  • Decent battery... approximately 6-8 hours at minimal usage and dimmed display


Verizon Share Everything Plan

Earlier this year, my family moved away from AT&T's Family Plan, in which all of the minutes and texts were shared but each line had its own data, to Verizon's Share Everything plan, in which a plan has unlimited shared minutes and texts, but shares a pool of data among all lines. (Part of the reason we had to switch carriers rather than just plans from AT&T is because my family moved to northern Maine in 2010, where AT&T has no service coverage.) The Verizon plan seemed like it would help my family of four by allowing those of us who use more data to "even out" those who use less data. Then we ran into problems...

The first problem I noticed was that the cost per gigabyte on the low-data-volume plans was high enough that it almost wasn't worth buying. My mother would look at how much the total plan costs, eyeing the only area that could be cut: data. We would think that "we will only use four gigabytes this month. Everyone stay in your limit," but that would quickly lead to problems when one of us went flying over how much data one was "supposed" to use. This meant that we were constantly upgrading our plan to cover the data usage before we incurred the $15/GB overage fee.

The second problem I noticed was when we tried to add my sister's (now ex-) boyfriend, he was even worse than the rest of us at staying within the self-imposed, arbitrary data limits. I recognized that, to effectively bill each person for the amount of data one is using, I would have to set the plan's data allowance high enough to accommodate the estimated data usage, then lower it to how much was actually used at the end of the billing cycle. This lead to an almost cat-and-mouse situation, constantly trying to adjust how much we needed.

Third, data usage being used without regard to monthly volume lead to problems with trying to bill the person who used the data, because as the plan needed more data, the cost per gigabyte would be lowered. Was this cost saving to be passed on to everyone, or just the person who was using enough to justify needing more data?

Fourth, Verizon's introduction of the Edge plan: Edge allows a user to buy a phone separately from their line contract on a monthly plan with or without a down-payment (one can pay up to 60% of the value of the phone to reduce the monthly cost) or to buy the phone outright. This can benefit the user because Verizon will reduce your line access cost. The line access discount is either $10 if your plan has less than 10 GBs, reducing the access fee to $30 per month, or $25 if your plan has 10 GBs or more, reducing the access fee to $15 per month. Those discount rates also apply if you use a device you already own. The Edge program can save you a bundle of money if you have 10GB+ data on your plan.

Fifth, my recommendation: I created a cost spreadsheet that calculates how much data costs, how much data up to ten users would need, and the total line access per user based on their data, the data rate of the plan, and if that user is on a standard 2-year contract or Edge.
(Here is the permalink to view/share the spreadsheet: http://h.yper.link/VerizonCostTable)
Use the spreadsheet to calculate how much you could save by changing the contract types for each line and how much data each line is using. Keep in mind that any costs for phones on Edge are not included in the line total cost or the plan total cost.

Lastly, I am currently experimenting with adding more people (who I trust, of course) to the plan so that we all benefit from high-volume data rates. Eventually, I will follow up to this post with the results of this experiment. If you have any questions, please comment below!


CPU 100% while idling

Lately I have had a weird problem... My primary computer system will be fast and responsive, like it should be, but randomly it would suddenly slow to a crawl. After opening the Task Manager, I found that my CPU usage was at 100%. That should not be possibly with my system so I knew something was wrong. I was pretty sure it wan't anything system- or driver-related, so I started investigating. In the Task Manager, the Processes tab showed no process that had any CPU usage - as if another process was using 100% of all the CPU resources. Even when I clicked "Show processes from all users," nothing was appearing. After a lot of frustration, I just let it sit there... lo and behold, a process showed up that was using 99% of the CPU! It was called "CaptureLibService.exe" and it was loaded by the SYSTEM.

I researched the process and found that it is installed with the software Freemake Video Downloader. The service is installed and used by Freemake to scan network traffic for embedded videos. This is a very fast method to download those pesky embedded videos, but when the service acts up and consumes all the resources, it isn't worth it.

If you would like to prevent this service from starting up automatically, but you want to keep the software, do the following:

1) Press Start + R to open run dialogue, then type msconifg

2) Click on the Services tab, then click on the Service heading to ascend alphabetically

3) Look for "FreemakeVideoCapture" and uncheck the box to the left

This will prevent it from starting automatically.


CrashPlan Crashes

Recently I had a problem with CrashPlan where the Backup Engine would crash randomly. It seemed like this was just a problem with the OS (Windows 7 x64 SP1) because I had been messing with it a lot, but after a re-install, the same problems were happening. This got me thinking about the amount of data I was backing up and how much system memory was needed for that amount of data (around 1.5TBs). The current CrashPlan settings allocated 512MBs of memory, so I upped it to 1024MBs, and that did the trick. It was as easy as this:

1) Open Notepad as Administrator

2) Open this file
C:\Program Files\CrashPlan\CrashPlanService.ini

3) Edit the variable -Xmx512M
    A recommendable amount is 1024M.

4) If you can still access the CrashPlan Desktop UI, open it. Double click the logo in the top right. This will open a CrashPlan service terminal; type restart, press enter.

Your CrashPlan software should no longer crash due to memory problems. If it does, then change that value to something higher.