Category Archives: Smackdown!

Bad experience at Larry’s Pistol and Pawn in Huntsville

I’m not really a complainer by nature (thank goodness), and I don’t tend to have problems with customer service at most of the businesses I deal with– in part because I am picky about who gets my money. Having said that, I had a bad experience with Larry’s Pistol and Pawn in Huntsville that I wanted to document.

Larry’s has been in business for a long time; when I moved to Huntsville in 1991, they had the only indoor pistol range in town. As long as I’ve lived in the area, I’ve shopped there, and I’ve never had a bad experience. Yesterday, though, I had a salesman who was both discourteous and uninformed about the law. He refused to sell me a rifle because I am a dual resident of California and Alabama– “I won’t sell you this because it’s not legal in California,” he said. 

I explained that I’d just gone through the same process at another local store, which had called the local Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATFE) office to confirm that it was legal. According to 27 CFR 478 § 11, it is in fact legal for a US citizen who resides in more than one state to purchase a long gun in any state of residence. I meet the legal residency definitions for both Alabama and California, and if you read Example 2 in the definition for “State of Residence” it’s clearly applicable.

Rude Guy wasn’t in the mood to listen; he told me that the other store where I’d made a previous purchase had broken the law. That didn’t seem likely; gun stores tend to be terrifically careful to follow the law and ATF regulations because failure to do so can get them shut down and their employees jailed. I politely thanked him and left. Then I called the local ATF field office myself and spoke to a very helpful ATF employee. I explained my situation, she cited 478§11 to me, told me I was good to go, and gave me her phone number to have Larry’s call her if they had any questions.

Armed with this information (ed.: see what I did there?) I went back to Larry’s, stood in line for the same guy, and explained my phone call. He was even ruder than before: “I don’t care what she said,” he said angrily; “I still won’t sell to you.” Clearly there was no point in arguing, so I left.

I’ve sent Larry Burnett, the owner, a detailed letter explaining what happened, so we’ll see what action, if any, he takes. Until I hear back, though, Larry’s is off my shopping list. If you’re in the market for firearms, ammunition, or supplies, I suggest you go elsewhere.


Filed under FAIL, General Stuff, Smackdown!

Don’t use Symantec security software

You may know that Symantec recently admitted that its network was compromised and that the attackers got the source code to pcAnywhere, Norton Internet Security, and a few other products. Buried in their acknowledgement, however, was the fact that the source code leaked in 2006 and has thus been floating around in the community for quite a while.

Jonathan Shapiro’s response on the IP list seemed to hit the right note for me:

The pcAnywhere source code leaked in 2006, and in all that time nobody thought to do a serious security review to assess the customer exposure that this created? And now after five years in which a responsible software process would have addressed these issues as a matter of routine, they are having people turn the product off?

This is the company that ships the anti-virus and firewall software that you are probably relying on right now. A version of which, by the way, has also leaked. Do you want to be running security software – or indeed any software – from a company that fails to promptly report critical vulnerabilities when they occur and then ignores them for five years?

You can argue about whether Microsoft’s disclosure policy is perfect or not. I cannot, however, imagine a circumstance in which Microsoft became aware of a potential vulnerability and then didn’t fix it for five years.

So: if you’re running Symantec security software on your personal machine, your company’s workstations, or your servers… time to get rid of it and replace it with software from a more responsible (and, one hopes, more security-conscious) vendor.


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Filed under FAIL, Security, Smackdown!, UC&C

Don’t buy from

Long story short: their customer support is poor, they don’t stand behind their products, and they aren’t honest about either.

I bought two electric Airsoft rifles for Dave and Tom for Christmas. Tom’s was fine; David’s was poorly designed and built. I got an RMA for it the day after Christmas, then had to fight with them for months before getting a partial refund. First they ignored me, then they claimed that the rifle had been damaged in return shipping (but couldn’t produce a UPS claim), then they claimed that it was damaged before shipping.

I eventually had to dispute the charge with my bank. The whole thing was a big hassle and not worth the few bucks that I might have saved by buying from them instead of a more reputable vendor.

Avoid them.

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Filed under California, FAIL, Smackdown!

Hurricane on the way to Miami


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Filed under Friends & Family, Smackdown!

New York Times surrenders to Marines

Well, not really. They did, however, overturn their longstanding style rule that says that “Marines” shouldn’t be capitalized. The Marine Corps Times has the whole story, drawn from the Times’ Philip Corbett’s blog entry here. Semper fi, Old Gray Lady!

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Filed under General Stuff, Smackdown!

Queuing system FAIL

I’m trying to sign my oldest son up for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ summer youth program, Especially For Youth. Frankly, I’m jealous that he gets to go. It’s sort of a combination summer camp and mini-seminary, and everyone I know who’s attended it (or whose kids have been) has raved about it. However, the signup process is giving me a headache. Here’s what’s on my screen right now:


So let me count the ways that this reeks of FAIL.

First, it doesn’t tell you what your queue position is. Having a queue length is meaningless; all it does is tell you the total number of people who may (or may not) be waiting for the service. Without some estimate of where you are, knowing the number of people in line or the wait time isn’t helpful.

Second, what does “the average wait time for the entire line” mean? If it’s for the entire line, is it really a total time, or is it the average time that someone has to wait in the queue? It can’t be the latter, because it keeps bouncing up and down. I’ve seen it as high as 130 and as low as 85– during the 240+ minutes that I’ve been waiting.

Third, how about an estimate for when it will be my turn? Is that too much to ask?

Here’s the best part: the registration isn’t first-come, first-served! There’s no hurry to register, but that little detail is several clicks beneath the actual registration screen.

Managing signup queues for high-demand events like EFY is a well-understood problem. If you’ve ever used Disney’s FastPass system, you know about one possible solution (and one that would certainly apply here). The LDS Church does such a good job with its use of technology in general that it’s a real disappointment to see this kind of junk.

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Filed under FAIL, Smackdown!

Oracle gets hammered on security

It’s like a joke that never gets old. I’ve written about Oracle’s terrible approach to product security before (here, here, here, and here are a few examples… bonus: this). Now security legend Jericho has written this outstanding timeline of exactly what Oracle has failed to do in the security arena. He should have subtitled it “Bring Me the Head of Mary Ann Davidson”. Well worth a read.

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Filed under Security, Smackdown!