Monday, August 10, 1998

This week I plan to do some heads-down work on the book, so there won't be that much to write about here. I have most of the software I use moved over to the new box, but I may spend some time getting sherlock stripped down and ready as a test system. I'm still running FrontPage on sherlock because I can't find my FrontPage CD. Once I do, I'll get FrontPage installed on kerby, which will allow me to do 99% of my routine daily work on that box. Until I do, I have to switch back and forth between kerby and sherlock.

Hmm. Ran into a minor problem. I installed Norton Utilities 2.0 for Windows NT on kerby. This is a product I don't want to live without, particularly for its enhancements to the standard Recycle Bin. However, as a part of the installation, Norton Utilities fires up the LiveUpdate feature, which goes out to the Symantec FTP site to download the latest program and virus definition updates. The trouble is, it's trying to FTP directly to the Symantec FTP server, which won't work through the WinGate proxy server. I managed to find the file lusetup.exe on the Symantec support pages. This patch installs a LiveUpdate icon in Control Panel, and allows me to configure LiveUpdate for the proxy server. I installed it, and LiveUpdate now works perfectly through WinGate.

Norton Utilities shows the disk as 20% fragmented, so I ran SpeedDisk to clean things up a bit. I don't use SpeedDisk much on my NT boxes, because Diskeeper from Executive Software seems to be faster and to do a better job. One thing in particular worries me about SpeedDisk: although it runs fine most of the time, I've had it hang up for no apparent reason in the midst of defragging an NTFS volume. This has happened several times, on different systems, and on disks that ranged from pretty full to almost empty. SpeedDisk has never lost any data or damaged the volume, but this behavior is disconcerting, to say the least.

I started to install Diskeeper Lite on kerby, but it comes as a .zip file, and I haven't installed WinZip yet. I have the current version, but I've somehow misplaced my registration key. This is a great product, but the nag screen on the shareware version drives me nuts.

Airborne just showed up with a letter from Que to tell me that they were remaindering Windows NT Workstation Internet & Networking Handbook, the first book I ever did that had my name on the cover. I wrote that book in three hectic months of 100+ hour, 7-day weeks in early- to mid-1996, and it hit the bookstores in late summer. Almost two years of sales for a technology book ain't bad.

Although the book didn't earn out its advance, I learned a lot about the business by writing it. I'm not sorry it's going. It had all of the flaws typical of a first book. Although it was a decent book and I'm certainly not embarrassed by it even today, it's just as well that it's being withdrawn. Que kindly offered to sell me the 3,000+ copies that remain in stock at the bargain price of about $7 each. Yeah, right. I guess the rights revert to me, although I'm not sure what use I'd have for them.

I mailed the WinZip folks about my lost registration key. About an hour after I did so, the U. S. mail showed up with a WinZip 7.0 beta package that also contained a nice round WinZip mouse pad. That got me motivated to find the init key, so I ransacked my old mail files (I never throw anything away). I finally located the old message in my Eudora archives, and was able to get WinZip installed without the nag screen. A couple hours later still, a message arrived from WinZip with a new init key. These folks are great to work with, and the product is superb. I wouldn't have a computer without WinZip installed on it.

Now, if only I could find my FrontPage 98 CD. I have the manual and box, just not the CD. It's probably buried in a stack of magazines or old InfoWorlds somewhere. I can't believe I didn't copy the CD up to the network server as I usually do.

Speaking of never throwing anything away, I have a bunch of 5.25" floppy flip-files in the basement (still full of 5.25" floppies, including some DEC RX50's!). I think they'll work just fine to hold the CD's. I suspect that I can even salvage the Tyvek sleeves from the 5.25" floppies and use them to protect the CD's. Jewel cases are just too inconvenient, not to mention too fragile.

Tuesday, August 11, 1998

I didn't get all that much written yesterday. Every time I got started, I'd go to do something and find that I didn't have the software I needed installed on the new box yet - a screen capture program, an FTP utility, a graphic viewer, etc. I did get quite a bit of research done, and now the box is pretty much where I need it to be. To writing ...

Wednesday, August 12, 1998

I got about 1,500 words written yesterday. That'd be a little sub-par for a normal writing day, but it's not bad for a day when I was just getting back into the swing of things. I once wrote 10,003 words in a single very long day while I was working on the DigitalThink courses, but that was extraordinary. I consider 2,500 words to be an average day, although that varies according to the type of content I'm writing. O'Reilly stuff tends toward lower daily word counts, because the data density is higher and the material is more difficult to write.

Barbara works from noon until nine at her library today. I usually go out to have dinner with her, but today I think I'll just crank straight through with a short break for sandwiches at dinner time.

Hmm. Looking at the web site, I realized that it's going to need quite a bit of work. I did some work on the book this morning, and decided to spend this afternoon working on the web site. Most of what I'm doing is organizing and rationalizing the site, as opposed to writing new content. That'll have to come later. I'll use my immense amount of spare time to work on it.

Well, my three-year-old Border Collie, Duncan, just climbed a tree again. I took him out on the 30 foot extensible lease, and he made a dash for a tree. Before I could restrain him, he'd pulled his way up into the lower branches and was continuing to climb. He scared the crap out that squirrel, literally.

Thursday, August 13, 1998

I got about half a day in yesterday working on the book. The afternoon and evening I spent getting the web site cleaned up a bit. Exchanged some mail with O'Reilly regarding the QC1 draft of the Windows NT TCP/IP Network Administration manuscript. They're sending out printed copies of the presumably final draft to Craig Hunt and me, to arrive tomorrow. We get to spend our weekends proofing them one last time before they go to the printer.

An interesting discussion cropped up on the Computer Book Publishing mailing list last night. Someone posted his own top-ten list of why he wrote, and asked others to do the same. I was surprised to see that the responses were quite varied. Although the same fifteen or so issues appeared in most of the lists, their rankings were all over the map. Here is my own list of the top ten reasons I write, from most important to least:

  1. Making money. After all, only blockheads write for anything other than money, with apologies to Johnson & Boswell.
  2. Working at home. My mother is disabled and needs someone around at all times, so writing for a living kills two birds mit einstein.
  3. Solving new problems every day. Most days jobs eventually become repetitive and boring.
  4. Choosing who I work with. I've worked for more than one pointy-haired boss in the past, so it's nice to be able to choose to work only with competent people.
  5. Controlling my own time. It's nice to be able to work on what I want to when I want to.
  6. Getting paid to play. Instead of messing around with this stuff as a hobby, I get to do it as a full-time job.
  7. Reducing stress. At least compared to my last day job, writing is very low stress, deadlines and all.
  8. Dressing as I please. I used to wear three-piece suits and ties. Never again.
  9. Avoiding the outdoors. I like being able to avoid leaving the house for weeks on end, particularly when the heat index stays at 100+.
  10. Ego gratification. I guess I'll include this. Although I don't really get much boost from seeing my name on the front of a book, I guess I'd be unhappy if the publisher took my name off the front.

Still more problems, this time with mail. I usually get 30 or 40 emails messages a day, but when I opened mail this morning, I had only one, and that had arrived at about 12:15 this morning. At that point, I figured it was just a slow day, but when I didn't get any messages by lunch time, I knew something was not right. I sent myself a test message, which never arrived.

At that point, I called tech support to see if the problem was on their end. I use BellSouth as my dial-up provider, and have my and email accounts forwarded to my account. After some experimenting, it became clear that mail sent to my actual account or to the autoforwarded account was arriving okay. However, anything sent to any account was disappearing into the ether.

I sent a pager message to the tech support folks and also sent them email described the problem. Haven't heard back from them yet...

One of the things that's been sitting on my to-do list for the last month or so is to register my web site with Most search engines take a reasonable approach - you sent them the URL of the top-level page of your site, and they use that URL to locate your site and then index all pages on the site. Infoseek works differently. They have an Add URL page, but you must enter every page that you want to be indexed individually. This web site currently has something close to 100 pages, and entering all of them one-by-one seemed ridiculous.

I probably wouldn't have bothered, either, except I can't get most of the other search engines to index my site. On 7/10, I submitted the main URL to Excite, AltaVista, HotBot, Northern Light, and a couple of other major search engines. AltaVista and HotBot both accessed and indexed the top-level page immediately, but neither one has never come back to index the other pages in the site. Excite never even bothered to access and index the top-level page. Only Northern Light did the job right, although it took them a couple of weeks to get started. On 7/23, after a nearly two week wait, the Northern Light search engine finally hit my site for the first time, but it indexed every page on the site. Now if only it would come back and index all these changes I've been making on a daily basis...

At any rate, today I finally decided to bite the bullet and submit all of my site pages to Infoseek. I opened a DOS box and did a directory of *.ht* redirected to a file. I cleaned up the directory listing, and then submitted it line-by-line to Infoseek's Add URL screen. Supposedly, this stuff will be indexed immediately, which is why I did it this way. They also allow you to submit multiple URLs via email, but caution that using that method can result in a week or more delay in indexing. After I submitted the URLs line-by-line, I converted the file to the form needed for batch submissions and put in a recurring to-do to prompt me to send the updated list in once a month. This is really a stupid way to do things. I can't believe that Infoseek goes out of its way to require manual labor for something that could be easily automated.

The tech from called back mid-afternoon. At first he said that everything appeared to be okay. He tried sending me a test message, which arrived fine. Fortunately, we dug a little deeper. Although I can't believe they didn't notice it until then or that I was the first person to point out the problem, the mailer daemon was not running. He said they'd had to restart the server last night to fix a sendmail loop, and apparently the mailer daemon never came back up. When he started the daemon, it immediately spawned about twenty processes to clear the logjam. I still can't believe it sat that way for half a day before anyone noticed.

Now, to add to this strangeness, I'm not getting much mail. I expected to get a flood as the server disgorged the stuff it had queued. Instead, I'm getting a few current messages, mostly return receipts. I've only gotten one real message since the problem was supposedly fixed, so I'm wondering where all my queued-up stuff has gotten to. I hope they haven't lost it all.

Friday, August 14, 1998

FedEx just showed up with the QC1 draft of Windows NT TCP/IP Network Administration as a three inch high stack of photocopies, printed on one side. I guess I'll be spending the weekend going through it. To work...

I spent the morning giving the book a quick read-through, and it looks pretty good. I then spent a little time updating the web site, mostly the stuff that Barbara needs to have done so that she can get started on her portion of it. I'm going to go ahead and publish this stuff to the web server, and then take everything down so I can start my weekly network backup.

Saturday and Sunday, August 15 and 16, 1998

Spent most of my free time this weekend going through the QC1 draft of of Windows NT TCP/IP Network Administration word by word looking for mistakes. In about 12 or 14 hours of work, I only managed to get through the first 200 pages or so. I'm going to have to speed it up tomorrow, because that's the last day on the schedule allowed for author review.

Went to our friends Don's and Natalya's home for dinner last night. Natalya is from St. Petersburg, and has lived in the US for about 5 years. We met Natalya a couple of years ago when she became a page at my wife's library. I sometimes wonder how she feels, going from being an archivist at the Hermitage in Leningrad to being a page at a small US library. She's a delightful person, and I really enjoy talking with her. It's fascinating to learn how someone thinks who grew up under a completely different system. I learn a lot from listening to her.

Updated: 31 May 2002 14:22

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 by Robert Bruce Thompson. All Rights Reserved.