Black History Month

I believe that Black History is American History. But I also believe that success comes from a culture of accountability to yourself and your family, not a culture of victimhood. In that, I’ve selected some inspirational individuals who have publicly taken one of the bravest things an individual can possibly do, which is to not toe the leftist party line.

Black history didn’t start in 1619, and it didn’t end with the Civil Rights movement. And I am thankful that more Black Americans are finding their voice independent of the left, as freedom of thought and freedom of speech are absolutely required for all of us as citizens in this experiment with democracy.

Thomas Sowell, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5daNMXer2UQ

Candace Owens, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b7ewJtUOVjA

Walter E. Williams, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Umng2V1jTTs

Kathy Barnette, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0XAH1bZZ6s4

Colion Noir: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3akMakBe72M

Antonia Okafor, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17JMEPQjlnk

Coleman Hughes, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HBWJC7LWq7I

Denzel Washington, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O0dCvQdt5XI

Kamaru Usman, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VKxndp2Nexo

David Webb, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oi0jN-y6vfY

Larry Elder, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sqJnzBHURvs

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Baen’s Bar, and the guy I’d never heard of until he published his opinion on the matter

John Sanford is as white as they come, cis-hetronormative and struggling desperately to appeal to the woke left to hide his internalized white supremacy.

Pretty catchy first sentence, if I do say so myself. Of course it all may, or may not be true. But since I will face literally zero consequences for writing that sentence I figured it was as good a sentence as any to illustrate exactly how much John Sanford’s opinion that “Baen Books Forum Being Used to Advocate for Political Violence” is largely free of consequences for him.

So, in order to avoid being deplatformed, Toni Weisskopf suspended the bar. This is, of course one of the desired outcomes of John Sanford and the “Science Fiction Writers Association” as Baen has refused to bow to the leftist ideological struggle sessions required by “woke culture.” The real goal, was deplatforming Baen entirely, as the hit piece published by Sanford was immediately used as “evidence” in requests to the internet service providers that host Baen to cut ties with the organization.

But deplatforming works. Milo Yiannopoulos was the “canary in the coal mine” test case, and it worked. And because it continues to work deplatforming will continue to be used by those who would rather silence anyone with a differing opinion.

Of course if you immediately reach for forcibly silencing your political opponents, you are the asshole. And so that is what John Sanford is, a writer so successful that his immediate life goal is to attract a grand total of 500 Patreon supporters, because evidently he can’t actually make a living as a writer by writing fiction and gossip.

Now, in John’s defense Baen’s Bar is home to people like Tom Kratman and John Ringo. You know, paratroopers who ran out of fucks to give many, many jumps ago. And as individuals with zero fucks left to give, they have no problem talking about violence, and if you read any of their fiction you’ll see that they include quite a bit of it. Of course this leaves a lot of words that a spineless milktoast like Sanford to take out of context of the conversation and claim, “see! inciting violence!”

When conservatives, even way out their conservatives, commit acts of violence they are generally effective. For example Kyle Rittenhouse did nothing but retreat nearly six football fields and protect himself from the three individuals bent on attacking him with lethal force. He could have shot into the mob, but he didn’t. Of course Tim McVeigh did the whole white nationalist terrorist act with indiscriminate results. And that is what people like Sanford fear, another effective attack by someone competent to follow through, however his fears are no reason to limit the free speech of others.

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Will the non-fake veterans please stand up?

Every couple of years another politician will have military service in their background and something will trigger critics that they are “not real veterans” or “fakers” of some sort. Generally this is done as an ad hominem to attack the politician simply for political reasons. It’s dumb, but politics is about power rather than intellectual honesty.

So here’s a quick summary of relatively recent veterans who got into politics being criticized for some aspect of their service….

There was the kerfuffle over Jesse Ventura “not being a real SEAL.” Here’s a hint, Jesse Ventura met all the requirements to receive a SEAL badge and simply didn’t put in the paperwork and kept wearing the UDT badge, but yes he’s a “real SEAL.”

There was the kerfuffle over President Bush’s service as an Air National Guard Pilot. Here’s a hint, he served, did his time, and is a “real veteran.”

More recently Senator Tom Cotton is being called a “fake Ranger” for not having served with the 75th Ranger Regiment…. Here’s a hint. If you at some point in the Army wore a bit of cloth on your shoulder that said “Ranger” then you are a Ranger, end of story. Well end of story unless you are Salon or Newsweek when you can go back six years and edit your stories to align with the narrative that attacks a conservative: https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/newsweek-edits-2015-story-on-army-rangers-to-conform-to-new-attack-on-tom-cotton/

Now even Pete Buttigieg is being called a “fake veteran” (by other veterans penning an OPED for the Grey Zombie) as he was a Direct Commission Officer into the US Navy…Here’s a hint, that’s a real thing and he’s a real veteran. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/pete-buttigieg-military-us-marine-corps-2020-election-new-hampshire-a9330501.html

Everyone has their own military career. Some have an easily recognizable pipeline of entry, training, career, retirement… Other have a career bouncing between active and reserves, and still others disappear into special projects with different government agencies then pop up back on the service books years later with two or three promotions under their belt…

The Direct Commission program is authorized by Congress, the same institution that provides appointments to applicants to our military academies, the same institution that authorized and funds the Reserve Officer Training Corps for the services, and the same institution that confirms the service Secretaries. If you have a Commission in the uniformed services, that Commission is granted by the President and confirmed by Congress. How you get that commission, whether Academy, ROTC, Officer Candidate School, or Direct Commission is irrelevant, once commissioned you ARE an Officer and should better damn well act like it.

Once you graduate from Ranger school, you ARE a Ranger. The idea that you aren’t a real Ranger unless you serve in the 75th Ranger Regiment is something that the “Batt Boys” like to throw around because they are rightfully proud of their unit. However Ranger School predates the Ranger Regiment by several years. When we stood up the 75th we cobbled together a unit history from various disparate Ranger companies and Battalions, but in truth the Army made Rangers before we made a Ranger Regiment. This is the same as how the SEALs grew out of the Underwater Demolition Teams.

Being a veteran meant you served. It doesn’t mean you are better than anyone else, or more patriotic than anyone else. It certainly doesn’t mean you are an expert on all things firearms related. It means that at some point you made the choice to serve, and that in itself is laudable. However the rest of your life should be spent making your “veteran” status a footnote, not a laurel you rest upon.

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Ammunition shortage lessons learned

The current market for ammunition and reloading components in the United States can be only described as a “seller’s market.” Primers are at 300 dollars a brick and people are paying that price. Reloading powder is advertised as “available” one moment and “sold out” before you can click “add to cart.”

Heading through my local Cabelas, there were a few boxes of 175gr Sierra Match Kings at 45 dollars a box, some 17 and 20 caliber varmint bullets, and oddly enough a nice selection of 338 caliber hunting bullets.

But, I did in the last two years build myself a DPMS pattern “AR-10” in 6.5 Creedmoor. I already load for 6.5×55 for NRA vintage sniper competition, so I had some 6.5 mm 140gr BTHP bullets on hand, as well as some primers and suitable powders. But in the last six months I’ve seen exactly one bag of 6.5 CM brass for sale (I snagged it).

Things I’ve done well, buy brass cheap and stack it deep. I’ve got several thousand 7.62×51/308 Win and 5.56×45/223 Rem casings bought back when it was cheap and plentiful. I also have enough bullets to keep me shooting for another full competitive season in 223 and 308.

Things I’ve done poorly. Primers and powder. Having a standard rifle powder like IMR4064 or Varget will keep you shooting 223 and 308 all day long, and while not optimal for 6.5 Creedmoor will let you shoot that too. Since powder is “out of stock, everywhere” as ammunition manufacturers ramp up to maximum production to sell ammo to the 7 million new gun owners (and GROWING!) the entire line of consumables is gone. Honestly I’m thankful now for that one pound cannister of IMR4166 I purchased on a whim a few years ago when I couldn’t find IMR4064 in stock locally, now I wish I’d bought much, much more.

Things I didn’t expect, reloading supply shortages. I was lucky to buy the very last can of “Hornady One Shot Case Lube” at my local Cabelas, which allowed me to reform some 30-06 into 25-06 for a friend, and 308 into 6.5 CM. Which brings up a good point, as you’ll see “most popular deer rifle cartridges” like this list for most popular deer rifles sold (in some recent year):

.30-30 Winchester
.30-06 Springfield
.270 Winchester
.243 Winchester
.223 Remington
.300 Winchester Magnum
6.5 Creedmoor
.350 Legend

Or this list for ammunition sales in 2015:

.223 Remington
.308 Winchester
.30-06 Springfield
.30-30 Winchester
.270 Winchester
.243 Winchester
7mm Remington Magnum
.300 Winchester Magnum
7.62x39mm Soviet
.22-250 Remington

It doesn’t matter what you shoot if you can’t feed it ammo, but the minimum “feeder” brass to have on hand would be 30-06, 300 Win Mag, 7.62×39, 30-30, and 223 Rem for either of the lists above. So five types of brass to reload the top ten most popular cartridges, it makes good sense to buy the “base brass” when you can.

So here are my big take aways so far.

1, small rifle magnum primers are the best utility primer for most everything I like to reload, from 5.56×45 to 350 Legend, and even some larger centerfires like small primer 6.5 CM or 308 Palma brass (same dimension as 308 Win but small primer pocket). When they are available, buy a couple bricks. And SRPs will work in most pistol brass, so you can get a lot of utility out of them.

2, large rifle magnum primers are the best utility primer for making hunting ammo. Ball rifle powder isn’t the easiest powder to ignite, so magnum primers are good to have on hand when you can’t be as choosy as to what powders are available. If I’m using a ball powder, I’m using a magnum primer if I can get them.

3, milsurp powders are still available, at least the ones suitable for overbore magnum cartridges. If you have a 7mm Rem Mag or 300 Win Mag and like to shoot heavy for caliber bullets then you still have powder sources available. Surprisingly with their super slow burn rate, these also work for some straight wall cartridges like 45-70, 450 Marlin, or 44 Marlin as well.

4, bullets don’t go bad, so stock up when they are available. I like heavy for caliber bullets for hunting (and target work at distance), and those work best with the slower powders that generally don’t dry up as quickly as something like Varget or H4895, but I’ve yet to poke into my stash of random bullets and be disappointed I have the remnants of a box of 80.5 gr Berger Fullbore bullets, or 30 cal 165 gr Hornady interlocks.

5, bullet casting equipment is still mostly available, but melting pots are starting to say “backorder ok” and molds are iffy. Casting bullets for black powder or standard pistol is a pretty simple process for getting good results on target, for modern centerfire rifle at high velocities it gets “tricky” fast. So casting won’t replace commercial bullets for many of us looking to keep in the X ring at 600 yards, but it will keep a 30-30 fed with a bullet capable of cleanly taking deer. If you have time and other resources, bullet casting seems like a good way to keep you shooting when commercial bullets get scarce.

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Chinese Menu Diplomacy

Compare and contrast these two Chinese takes on agreements with the UK and the United States.

Ministry spokesman Lu Kang hit back at remarks from the two countries on Friday, hours after they issued statements on the political condition of the city, as it marks 20 years since that handover, from British rule to Chinese.

Now that Hong Kong has returned to the motherland for 20 years the Sino-British Joint Declaration, as a historical document, no longer has any realistic meaning,” Chinese Ministry spokesman Lu Kang, 2017. https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/politics/article/2100779/sino-british-joint-declaration-hong-kong-no-longer-has-any

And this…

The US should abide by the one-China principle and the three China-US joint communiques, not anything it unilaterally formulated,” China’s Foreign Minister Spokesman Lijian Zhao, 2021. https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/abide-by-one-china-policy-beijing-tells-us/2045832

I think that this is pretty clear that China will continue to ignore any agreement or treaty that it finds limiting, while doing its best to use treaties and agreements to limit other nations, specifically with regards to Hong Kong and Taiwan. Unfortunately for China, the United States has recently been breaking treaties with Russia that were made with the Soviet Union, as the nation of Russia is now a significantly different threat than the USSR was at the time.

China now is very different than China in 1972 when the “One China” policy came to be, and so is Taiwan. If China can just unilaterally ignore the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration as a “historical document, no longer has any realistic meaning” I think that using those same words to describe the diplomatic communications describing the “One China Policy” can also be described as “historical document, no longer has any realistic meaning” without irony.

This “pick and choose documents” style of Chinese diplomacy is how China justifies the illegal occupation of territory from Vietnam and the Philippines in the South China Sea (hundreds and hundreds of miles from actual China, but strategically important to global trade). It’s time that the US start imitating China in selective enforcement and dismissal of old agreements, such as bringing up the “Chinese Hukuang Railway Bonds” which would force China to agree that it is the legitimate successor government, or claim that it is not the legitimate successor government. Honestly if Taipei paid the Hukuang Railway Bonds, it would establish a good bit of precedence with the United States that Taiwan is the legitimate successor government to China, although mainland China has redeemed some bonds held in the UK as part of the agreement to get Hong Kong back.

Very interesting times ahead.

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De-Platforming is nothing new, but can you think of a time it was ever done to a leftist?

A 16 year old Canadian girl, who’s privacy was respected by the left wing Vox website admitted that she went out of her way to get Milo Yiannopoulos deplatformed.
https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/2/24/14715774/milo-yiannopoulos-cpac-pedophile-video-canada

Milo was really the first test case, the canary in the coal mine if you will, as to whether deplatforming could be a valid and legal tactic for silencing conservative voices. The courts offered no protection to Milo, as social media is a “private enterprise” despite the same court systems upholding the 1st Amendment Rights of journalists to have unfettered access to Donald Trump’s twitter feed, and directing him to unblock those journalists he blocked (because in this case the courts decided that as a public figure Donald Trump turned Twitter into a forum for public discourse).

Of course Twitter eventually deplatformed Trump for what it claimed was a Terms of Service violation, which used the wording “we interpret this as” many times in their explanation. Since the words themselves did not incite a riot, or inspire violence, Twitter had to interpret those words as some sort of conspiratorial conservative code to Trumps followers…

Now even Ron Paul has been suspended, without ever receiving a warning or previous suspension. https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2021/jan/11/ron-paul-baffled-facebook-suspension-conservative-/

This was all done with in concert with Apple, Google, and Amazon removing the Parler app from official distribution and then terminating services from Amazon Web Services. https://www.cnn.com/2021/01/09/tech/parler-suspended-apple-app-store/index.html

But hey, at least there’s Gab, right? Well not so much. Even Microsoft used it’s position as the Azure web services provider to compel Gab to limit free speech, and that was over two years ago now. https://www.neowin.net/news/microsoft-moderates-gab-content-with-site-takedown-threat/

Now, the “Section 230” protections are what keep WordPress from being sued if my words here on this blog incite a riot or inspire crime anywhere in the world. Overall Section 230 is a good thing, https://www.eff.org/issues/cda230 But the justification that Apple used to remove Parler from the app store was that it didn’t moderate content enough, despite having no legal requirement to do so, and despite Apple spending a tidy sum on their legal defense of Section 230 protections for themselves.

And yes, Antifa International is still approved and coordinating protests and deliberate confrontations with conservatives on Twitter. Inciting a riot is ok if you are one of the acceptable leftist persuasion.

I don’t have a solution, the courts have inconsistently addressed this issue, sidestepping the issue of whether you can refuse service for religious with “Masterpiece Cakes” (long story short, the baker won in court, but lost his business due to his religious principles). The courts also extended 1st Amendment “Freedom of the Press” protections to journalists on Twitter forcing Trump to unblock their accounts. So we live in this weird world where denying someone the right to express themselves on a platform is legal, but denying someone the ability to heckle you on the same platform is illegal.

I disagreed with Trump’s desire to get rid of Section 230 protections for social media, but since they are acting in a capricious manner, and causing harm to American citizens through their one sided enforcement of their terms of service, I can see his point. And don’t get me wrong, I am not a fan of Trump (not really a fan of anyone in politics) but he is the scoundrel who pushes the envelope that is going to get us the case law that either protects free speech, or kills it. This is a “People Vs. Larry Flint” level of importance, and I’m quite sure that the traditional defenders of free speech hate Trump so much that they’ll cut out their tongue to spite their face, believing that since they are on the right side of history and none of the rules are going to apply to them. After all, when the Leftists rioted at Trumps inauguration 4 years ago, the government eventually just gave up on prosecution because they all refused to rat on each other, and other leftists kept paying their legal fees. I wonder when the right will copy that tactic.

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The first day in a new decade.

January 1st, 2021 is first day of the new decade, just like January 1st, 2001 was the first day of the new century (as December 31st, 2000 was the last day of the last century). I guess if we’d started off at “year 0” instead of “year 1” on the calendar that would be different, but we didn’t so it’s just a handy excuse to party hard two years in a row whenever the 9 rolls over to a 0 and the 0 rolls over to a 1.

However you want to slice it, 2020 was a disaster of a dumpster fire. Not because of COVID, but because of the utterly incompetent response to COVID by those who believe they are smarter, brighter, and better than all of the “others.” In March I predicted that the minimum time for the COVID pandemic to run its course would be between 13 and 15 months, and so far we are right on track to meet that timeline.

But…I go into this new decade not with a sense of hope, but cynicism. The powers that be, those in the deep state and incestuous sisterhood of academia have not learned an ounce of humility from their failures in 2020, and instead lament that they didn’t hit harder, sooner, to really take control of the situation.

The fundamental fallacy there is that they believe the pebble can stop the avalanche, or the twig can stop the flood, because they can be smart enough to know just where to put it. This would be true if the avalanche, or flood, were a static thing. But they are not, they change. Snow falls, the sun warms the earth, things shift, rain happens. You can never know where to put the pebble, nor the stick, to stave off disaster.

The best you can actually hope for is “resilience.” And in 2020 the powers that be decided that “resilience” was to be squashed with the power of the state to force businesses to close. The thinly veiled “race riots” of the year suddenly stopped when the Democrats no longer needed an alternative to Donald Trump in the news cycle (and they were hurting Biden’s polls).

Every empire falls. Some fall over centuries like Rome. Some fall overnight like the Soviet Union. But nothing lasts forever. How far and how fast we fall is yet to be determined, but honestly diversifying any investments you have into foreign currencies might not be a bad thing at this point.

Happy New Year.

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Thoughts about the Mk12 and M4 SOPMOD

The Mk12 Special Purpose Rifle and M4 Carbine both grew from the needs of “Special Operators.” The M4 because Army special operators needed something that was as handy as the MP5, but with better range and stopping power. The Mk12 because Navy SEALs needed something more accurate than a standard M4, but light and handy rather than heavy like a dedicated sniper rifle (SR-25 or M110 for example). As of the time of this writing, the Mk12 has been supplanted in the SOCOM inventory by the FN SCAR, and the M4 replaced by the M4A1, which is really just big Army accepting a bunch of the M4 SOPMOD (Special Operations Modification) changes as standard.

The Mk12 was a great answer to an immediate need, pulling commercial parts and assembling them into a precision rifle build. By going the SOCOM route there was no bidding war, no requirements document to fill out (unlike the Army’s 97 page pistol requirement, which still had multiple challenges by industry). Simply put the folks at Crane purchased parts, assembled rifles, shipped them off to the teams that needed them.

The M4 saga is not so simple, mainly because the Army is so much bigger than any other service when it comes to having “trigger pullers.” While the M16A2 was a joint effort with the USMC to make a more accurate and reliable service rifle, the M4 was not. Eventually the USMC did adopt the M4 as the standard rifle for the Marines, but within a few years decided to go all in on the M27 (aka HK 416). The Army flirted with the HK 416, even outfitting the Asymmetric Warfare Group with them, and a few other SOF outfits, before moving on to an M4 improvement package. I’ve lost count of the number of shoot offs the M16/M4 rifle has survived to remain the Army’s service rifle, but it remains. Largely due to the fact none of the challengers were significantly lighter, significantly more accurate, or significantly more reliable than Eugene Stoner’s brain child. And since the platform is “open source, off patent” at this point, it’s way cheaper than any of the newcomers.

The modularity of the the M16 platform has allowed it to have two twenty inch barrels, in the A1 and A2, two twist rates 1:12 and 1:7, and shorter barrels in 9, 12, 14.5, and 18 inch varieties. Unofficially the AMU produced a few SDR builds for the 3rd Infantry Division, with a 1:8 twist and free float hand guards, but I’m sure there are even more “one offs” out there in the National Guard units.

So…why has the Army put up with essentially the same platform for so long? Simply put it has been easier to morph the AR pattern into what the service needed it to be rather than go through the Congressionally required contractor bidding war and prototype testing regime. All of this is interesting history (to some of us anyways), but the real question most of my readers are probably having is, “what is the best setup?”

There really is no “best” setup, as every choice is a deliberate compromise with something else. The M4 was meant to replace the MP5, not the M16, but that’s what happened. The Mk12 was meant to be a lightweight, highly accurate sniper rifle for the SEALs, but morphed into a designated marksman rifle for SOCOM. Either configuration will serve you quite well for any of the chores that you need a handy rifle for (varminting, hunting, home defense, etc). If I had to recommend a pattern for general purpose civilian use, I would recommend the Mk12 like build more than the M4 like build, and here’s why.

The Mk12 uses a free float tube and symmetrical muzzle brake. This minimizes barrel whip and allows for faster follow up shots should you need one. The Mk12 can take advantage of the rifle length gas system, allowing easier tuning of the whole system for reliability if you need to tune it to a particular load, or if you need to tune a load to your particular rifle. Honestly though a 16″ barrel with midlength gas system will be just as good inside of 400 yards from an external ballistics standpoing, so if you want a carbine length barrel, that’s a great choice. My personal set of ARs has 20″ and 16″ barrels in the collection, so the 18″ of the Mk12 is a compromise I don’t need to make. However if I were to only have ONE rifle, then that 18″ barrel looks really really good for my competitive needs, and utility needs. But since I can own more than one, spitting between 16″ for utility (stalking game, home defense, action shooting competition) and 20″ (hunting from a stand/varminting, service rifle competition) makes a better mix for me.

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Thoughts on repurposing older computers in the age of increasing electricity costs

Once you’ve paid for your hardware, and any software you want to run on it, the recurring cost associated with that system is mostly going to be in electricity, and some maintenance.

I personally have an old HP Z800 workstation, running dual hex core Xeon processors and 96 GB of RAM, but I don’t run it 24/7 since it the power supply in that old beast is rated over 1000 watts. I know that I could plug it into a device like a “kill a watt” and see what it actually pulls under idle and load, but unless I’m running a heavy virtual lab environment where I’m benefitting from those extra cores and ram, I’m more than happy to use the much newer Ryzen 5 1600AF system with half the cores and a third the ram, on a 500 watt power supply.

For example, if I were to use that old 1000 watt beast, and let it run 24/7 as a server on my home network, and it idled at 200w draw over the course of a month, that’s over 17 dollars added to my electric bill each month. Over the course of a year, that’s over 200 dollars in electricity for one server.

However, say I didn’t need all that horsepower, and could set up a low power Celeron or Atom server to run basic NAS and media server duties. Even if fully loaded that system draws 50 watts on average per month, that’s still less than 5 dollars a month, or 60 dollars a year. If I can reduce that down to a 10 watt single board computer with another 10 watt external storage drive, then we are down to about a buck seventy fie per month, or a total cost of just over twenty dollars per year.

This is why I generally don’t recommend repurposing older desktops or workstations into servers that will be on 24/7 for most home users. Unless you live in an area where electricity is super cheap or the added heating of your home is welcome (generally not a thing for me) it doesn’t make long term financial sense. However, if you are repurposing older hardware for the point of learning/mastering skills, then by all means go ahead with that. Once you’ve got all the configuration down, you’ll be able to transfer it to more efficient hardware trivially.

There is a sweet spot between “raspberry pi” style single board computers running some variant of Debian (such as OpenMediaVault) and providing services on your network (a valid option for a lot of people who don’t need serious enterprise grade reliability) and setting up your own server rack in a spare closet or garage with ebay specials to run TrueNAS with a substantial ZFS pool. There are a number of fanless motherboard/cpu combos using Celeron processors, and some even with modern Pentium processors, that have sufficient SATA ports and IO to give very efficient performance. If you want to go with an AMD solution, right now the best bet seems to be the older A320 motherboards paired with an Athlon dual core CPU, as at 35 watts isn’t a true lightweight, but is almost half the power consumption of a Ryzen proper. The problem here is that unless you are replacing a 1000 watt beast, purchasing new hardware is unlikely to pay for itself in electrical cost reduction inside of three years.

But maybe you live in Canada or Alaska where the inefficency of an older system is a net benefit 9 months out of the year for home heating, and you have cheap power from the grid. In that specific case repurposing old hardware to server duties makes good sense. However if you are a young person who is likely to move a few times over the next few years, maybe a RasPi 4 setup as your NAS would be the wiser choice (especially as SSD costs continue to drop like a rock. It doesn’t have to be a RasPi either, any SBC with USB 3.0 or higher can generally do good service as a NAS solution. And if neither of those cases applies to you, then buying a latest or last generation low power cpu/mobo combo will likely hit your sweet spot nicely.

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Making the internet a little safer for little eyes

2020 was the year where a lot of schooling transitioned to online, and I’m sure that many a parent has had to have an awkward conversation about some of the more adult things on the internet that their child stumbled onto with a misspelled Google search.

First, you cannot make the internet “safe” but you can make it a bit “safer.” Below are some of the technical things I did to help out my family. Options 1, 2, and 4 are doable for pretty much anyone. Option 3 is a bit more work, but if you are willing to put in the work to learn can be done in a weekend. Option 5 is doable for everyone, but only if you are willing to buy into the Google ecosystem.

  1. Use a “Pi Hole” to make a DNS sinkhole for ad domains, and add on the porn domains as well. I’ve installed the Pi Hole software on a Libre Computer “La Frite” single board computer as well as a Rock 64 single board computer. If you want it to “just work” when you follow along with a tutorial, get a Raspberry Pi 2, 3, or 4 and follow any of the numerous online guides. Then make sure you add the porn blocker lists from this guy: https://chadmayfield.com/2017/06/29/blocking-porn-with-pihole/
  2. Use your WiFi router’s built in parental controls, if it has any. If not, I honestly recommend getting a better router with granular parental control features. My personal experience with Linksys parental control features is “not good” in that they require you to go to individual devices and clear the cookies and cache. https://www.howtogeek.com/167545/4-ways-to-set-up-parental-controls-on-your-home-network/
  3. Set up a dedicated opnsense or pfsense firewall/router between your wireless router and the internet. This will allow you to have better much more granular control over your routing rules. When my Linksys router couldn’t block youtube, I went to my pfsense box and created a rule which blocked any traffic to the youtube internet address from the port where my Linksys router plugged in. This is a “nuclear option” in terms of blocking traffic to a given site. After trying to get the Linksys router to block youtube, I simply used the Powershell command “ping youtube.com” and it came back with the IP address that my network resolved to. I blocked that one address on one port, and youtube is no more. Everyone’s DNS cache resolves to that IP address, and future DNS queries to the Pi Hole send it to a DNS sinkhole. If someone with a different address for Youtube got on my filtered WiFi network, they may be able to access Youtube as they wouldn’t need to query the Pi Hole for DNS resolution and might by trying to access a different IP address.
  4. Use the operating system hosts file to deny access to a ton of sites. There are plenty of hosts files out there that serve the same function as a Pi Hole, but just for an individual machine. If you want to block youtube, then going into the hosts file and entering “127.0.0.1 youtube.com” will deny access to youtube. On Linux this is trivially easy, on Windows 10 you’ll have to change file permissions to modify the hosts file, but that is done as long as you have an account with administrator level access.
  5. Use a “neutered” operating system like a Chromebook. As much as Google is a big, faceless, evil mega-corporation they do make a good product that can leverage the power of “Google safe search” and “Google safe browsing” to keep the more adult content on the internet away from little eyes for a little bit longer.

Now none of these technical fixes are foolproof. A virtual private network (VPN) could easily defeat all of them, as could a simple proxy site publicly available on the internet. Although I figure if my kids spend the time to get the technical chops to get themselves unfiltered internet access that in itself is learning valuable technical skills, my wife disapproves. And if I rebuilt my network around an opnsense box I could use Unbound DNS to replace the Pi Hole, but I bring this up only to point out that there are multiple ways to filter your internets. There are even plenty of commercial solutions, like “Net Nanny” that are made to do what I’ve described here along with additional monitoring capabilities. But nothing is infallible, and “information wants to be free.”

Since I know that the technical controls are fallible, I took my eleven year old son for a walk around the neighborhood where we talked a bit about what he stumbled onto, why the dopamine response makes it so that humans can become addicted to nearly anything, and about how his body was changing and some of the changes still to come. Since I can’t make the internet safe for my kids, I need to arm my kids to be safe on the internet. One of the worst things you can do is pretend that one conversation is enough, it isn’t, so I’ll need to make sure that my son and I go out for more “man to man” time where we can talk about what is going on in his life. Tech dad has to be a real dad.

I would recommend if you have young children you start hardening your home network now. I wish another tech dad had told me about his experience, so if you know someone with young children please pass on this post so that they can start thinking about the work they’ll need to do, both in technology and in their relationships, to prepare their children to deal with the world.

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