Monday, August 24, 1998

Today I start heads-down work on the new book, so these journal updates are likely to be less frequent and smaller. I'm back in writing mode - keeping a detailed calendar of my activity, daily word counts, etc. This book has a six month deadline (2/28/99) to completion, so the first step is to map out a daily schedule. I have 26 weeks to play with, and 17 chapters to write. I'll plan to do a chapter a week, starting the first week of September. That'll give me some slack to accommodate unexpected problems. If I really can finish it in 17 weeks and beat the deadline by a couple of months, so much the better. Not likely, though, especially with the holidays intervening.

I checked InfoSeek this morning, and they have some but not all of this site's pages indexed, or so it seems. When I did a search yesterday for +"triad technology group", InfoSeek returned 24 hits. This morning, it returned 98 hits. The 74 additional hits are about right, because this site now has something like 74 pages. However, all the pages don't seem to actually be there. For example, when I did a search for +"triad technology group" +copyright, InfoSeek returned 18 hits. That's pretty strange, because every page has an automatically-generated footer that includes the phrase "Copyright 1998 by Triad Technology Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved." It should be all or nothing. Zero pages or all 74, but not 18. Oh, well, at least I'm now being indexed on both Northern Light and InfoSeek. Now, if I could only convince AltaVista, Excite, and HotBot to index the site, I'd be a happy man.

Hmm. This is a bit disconcerting. When I published this page a moment ago, FrontPage displayed a weird message. Before it started to publish the new and updated pages, it popped up a dialog that said the changes I'd made to the FrontPage web structure conflicted with changes made by another author. Now, that's pretty strange, considering that I'm the only author with access to this web, or should be. FrontPage gave me the option of discarding my own changes, overwriting the changes by the "other author", or merging the two sets, using my updates only if they were more recent. After thinking about it for a moment, I decided to tell it to use my current changes to overwrite the other changes. After publishing the web, I hit the site with my web browser. On a hunch, I looked at the Table of Contents page. Sure enough, the sort order problem was fixed, and things now appear normal.

If there's anything that worries me about a software package, it's unpredictability, and FrontPage is unpredictable in spades. For example, sometimes when I publish updated pages to the web site, FrontPage prompts me that a changed page already exists and asks if I want to replace it. Other times, it simply publishes the new page without asking. Whether or not it prompts doesn't seem to be related to the individual page in question, or to the session. That is, sometimes when I change this particular page and then publish, FrontPage prompts me about overwriting it, and other times it doesn't. In some publishing sessions, it prompts about overwriting changed pages, and in other sessions it doesn't prompt at all. Even during publishing sessions where it prompts on some changed pages, it doesn't prompt on all changed pages.

As I said, it's unpredictable. I'll keep using FrontPage, though, because it beats the hell out of the only other thing I could use to maintain the site. Somehow I think that switching to Word would be jumping from the proverbial frying pan.

I've spent an hour or so scheduling the chapters I need to write, making my best guesses at page count and difficulty, and then using the Outlook 98 Calendar to assign each chapter to the days when I will write it. In the process of doing this, I noticed that Microsoft still thinks that Thanksgiving Day is on a Wednesday. This year, it falls on Wednesday, 11/25. Now, if this was anyone else, I'd just assume they'd made a silly mistake. Given that it's Microsoft, I wouldn't be surprised in a few years to see all of us celebrating Thanksgiving on Wednesday, as Microsoft so obviously intends.

Late afternoon: I haven't gotten anything written today to speak of, but I have gotten quite a lot done in terms of planning, organization, and scheduling. The contract copies arrived in today's mail, so I'll sign them and get them back in the mail tomorrow morning. This is going to be a really fun project, particularly if I can get it knocked out a few weeks ahead of schedule.

I was considering trying to write this book in FrameMaker, but the more I think about it, the more I think I'll stick with Word. Word is still generating reproducible GPFs on the sample chapter, but better the devil I know. At least Word isn't losing any data when it GPFs.

Tuesday, August 25, 1998

I've gotten in the habit of checking the stats page for my web site first thing each morning. I'm not sure how useful it is in any real sense, but there's a lot of fascinating information there. It's early days yet, so I'm still delighted when the stats page shows that users from other countries have accessed the site. Today, the stats page shows that, for the first time, users from Russia and Singapore accessed the site. Reminds me of attempting to work-all-countries (WAC) back in my ham radio days 30 years ago and more. Time to publish this page and then go to work...

Well, that didn't work too well. I did my usual - save the changes, exit FrontPage, restart FrontPage, and click the Publish icon. The pointer turned into an hourglass and nothing happened. After a minute or two, I right-clicked on the task bar and chose Task Manager, figuring that the FrontPage process would be "Not Responding". Task Manager never came up - not a good sign. After waiting a minute or so, I found that the system was dead. The mouse pointer would move, but that was it. I pressed Ctrl-Alt-Del, but all it did was display a blank green screen. I eventually had to power down the box. NT isn't quite as bullet proof as Microsoft wants people to think.

I got yet another copy of the "Diploma" spam/scam that's circulating on the net right now. At least they've corrected the spelling. The subject line used to have "Diploma" spelled wrong. Based on your "life experience", you can buy a bachelors, masters, or doctorate from a "prestigious non-accredited" university, starting at $125. Can anyone really be so lacking in pride that he would buy a diploma? Or be so stupid that he would think that that diploma would be taken seriously by anyone else? Maybe I'll call them and see how much an M.D. diploma costs. I do have the "life experience" they require. I've been in more than one doctor's office over the years.

Wednesday, August 26, 1998

I wasn't feeling well yesterday afternoon, so I took the afternoon off to lie around drinking chicken noodle soup and re-reading Heinlein's Starship Troopers. I used to have one of the very few original paperbacks with the original title, Starship Soldiers, but I made the mistake of lending it to a friend. Almost no paperbacks are collectible, but I suspect that one is an exception.

I still wasn't feeling very well when I got up this morning, so I decided to update the web site and do miscellaneous stuff until I got to feeling better. It's very tough to write even when you're feeling your best, let alone when you're not feeling well. At any rate, I fired up FrontPage, and it again locked the computer solid. I had to press the reset button to get it back to life. This won't do at all. I'm almost certain that the problem is with FrontPage rather than with this newly-built computer. I've given it a pretty thorough workout, and FP98 is the only thing that causes problems.

I considered going back to using sherlock for FrontPage, but I really don't want to do that. FrontPage locks up about once every ten times I start it, so I decided to work in FrontPage Editor rather than FrontPage Explorer, and fire up FP Explorer only when I need to publish or change the structure of the web site. We'll see what happens.

Thursday, August 27, 1998

I never did get to feeling well enough to write yesterday, so I spent the day lying around reading. Finished the first volume of H. G. Wells' Outline of History and found myself wondering the whole time how an updated, politically-correct version would read. This work isn't on the scope or scale of Durant, but is worth reading all the same.

Hurricane Bonnie is still just sitting there beating up the North Carolina coast as I write this. We're a couple of hundred miles inland, and haven't had much effect from it. The winds were gusting up to 30 or 40 MPH at times yesterday, but we've not gotten a drop of rain, which we need badly. I'm feeling better today, so it's back to work for me.

Late afternoon: Just went out to give the dogs a short walk, and found an express envelope lying on the front porch. It contains MT5 beta 2 in both server and workstation versions, along with boot floppies for each. I installed each preceding release soon after it became available, and got burned a couple of times. I think this time I'll let others be the pioneers.

That gets me to thinking about what to install where. I'm going to need a dedicated Win98 test-bed box for this new book, and I think I'll convert old kerby to that use under a new name. It has 96 MB of RAM, which is a little excessive even for Win98, but it does have only a 486 DX/2-66 processor, so perhaps the two will even out. I was thinking about installing an Evergreen 586 processor upgrade, but I think the Anigma motherboard in this system is one of those that Evergreen lists as incompatible.

I really need to get some sort of video switch box. I have five monitors sitting on my desk and credenza right now, and no room for more. Various companies make rather expensive automatic video/keyboard/mouse switch boxes intended for use on network servers, but that's not what I want. I simply want a manual switch box that will allow me to toggle one monitor between two or three computers. It shouldn't be that hard. I have all kinds of them sitting around right now that do the same thing for TTL monochrome monitors, serial ports, and parallel ports. What I need is one that has DB15 connectors on it. Black Box has one, but it's expensive like all their stuff. Built like a tank, but expensive. I'll check the Global and Datacomm Warehouse catalogs. Surely someone makes a reasonable $25 switchbox to do this. I can't be the only person who needs one.

I think I'm going to change when I update and publish this journal page. Up until now, I've been jotting occasional notes throughout the day, but usually publishing the following morning. In theory, that should let me get the web page done and out of the way before I set in on the day's work. In practice, it makes it too easy to get too involved with the page and end up delaying my start on the paying work. So, from now on, this gets published in the afternoon or evening, mostly.

Friday, August 28, 1998

Well, that didn't work out too well, because I forgot to publish yesterday afternoon. I guess I'll still try to stick to the afternoon publishing schedule, but I might as well post this now.

My friend Steve Tucker mailed me yesterday to say that he'd bought a 3Com ISDN router and ordered ISDN service for his home. Like me, Steve runs NT, NetWare, and Unix boxes on his home network, so getting things connected will be interesting. He's signing up with an ISP that offers unlimited ISDN for $40/month, and BellSouth doesn't charge by the call or by the the minute for ISDN service. Assuming that Steve can get a static IP address assigned, that brings up the interesting possibility of setting up a "nailed up" ISDN connection to provide him with a full-time Internet link. This means that he could run a local web server, mail server, etc. assuming that he applies for a domain name.

At any rate, Steve'll have me, John Mikol, and David Rowe available to help get his network connected to the Internet, so there shouldn't be much problem getting it done.

Saturday, August 29, 1998

Got a fair amount done yesterday. I'd been trying to avoid Windows 98, but I need a Win98 box for the new book. This morning, in between laundry loads, I started the Win98 distribution CD copying up to my distribution server. There were numerous "inpage" copying errors, so I don't know if this CD is defective, or if Microsoft has implemented some crafty new copy protection scheme. We'll see.

Checked the web site stats this morning, and it looks as though AltaVista has finally gotten around to indexing my web site, although it hasn't shown up in their index yet. Speaking of web stats, it's interesting to see who viewing the site. When you first bring a site up, it feels like you're talking but don't know if anyone is listening. At first, the stats show only your own accesses, and perhaps a few by your friends who've come by to check out your site. Then, for a while, it's just you and the search engines, and you begin to wonder if anyone will ever visit. Eventually, it gets to the point where real visitors are the majority of the traffic, and then to the point where your own visits don't even show up in the top 10 or top 100.

This site isn't really officially open yet, and it's still managing to draw visitors. I'm impressed. I didn't expect this much traffic this soon. One of the neat things is watching the countries from which visitors are accessing the site. I've had visitors from several dozen countries already, and perhaps more because one of the large categories lists hits from unresolved numeric addresses.

Another neat thing is seeing which web browsers and operating systems visitors are using. For a long time, it was mostly me - Windows NT with either FrontPage, IE 4.01, or Navigator 4.05. Before long, the Windows 95 and Windows 98 hits started, with a Mac user visting once in a while. At this point, my log shows visits from several different Unix flavors, a few Win31 users, a Web-TV user, and one person who uses Amiga OS. It may be significant that I haven't had any hits from OS/2 users...

Lunchtime: Barbara returned from the gym and grocery store. While we unloading groceries in the kitchen, I noticed that the dining room table is still covered up with computer pieces. Come to think of it, the library is still full of boxes, too. She's asked me once to get the stuff cleared out, so I better get to work on that.

Spent some time this afternoon trying to get old kerby running again. That machine used to have 40 MB of RAM and an 850 MB IDE drive in it. During my abortive attempt to prepare it to run MT5, I'd expanded the RAM to 96 MB and replaced the 850 MB drive with a 4.3 GB drive. MT5 wouldn't even load on it. When I was building new kerby on an Intel Seattle 440BX PII system board, I pulled the 4.3 GB drive to use in new kerby. Old kerby was just sitting there as it had been, but driveless. I spent the better part of an hour trying to get the old 850 MB IDE drive to work in old kerby. I suspect that in the process of swapping drives in and out, the IDE cable must have been damaged. I have a bunch of IDE cables around here, somewhere. No time to find them now. It's time to head over to the Tucker's house for dinner.

Sunday, August 30, 1998

Well, changing from work mode to play mode, I spent most of the evening at the Tucker's house trying to get a hard drive working in one of Steve's computers. John Mikol was over there working on it, too. The drive is a Quantum 9 GB differential SCSI, with a Symbios host adapter. We never did make any progress to speak of. We could get the configuration firmware on the host adapter to recognize the drive, but we couldn't get the SCSI utility software or the operating system to recognize that there was a drive attached to the adapter. We tried Windows 98, Windows 95, and Windows NT Workstation 4. John and I wanted to try Linux, but Steve thought that wasn't the best choice of operating system for a computer that his kids use.

Although we eventually got the drive to show up in Win95 Device Manager, we never could get the drive installed. We could fdisk the drive, or so it appeared, but the partition table never did get written to the drive, and after the forced reboot, the drive was again unpartitioned. Steve had already gotten the vendor to replace the drive and adapter once, and the replacement drive & adapter behave identically, so my guess is that it's a cable problem. SCSI in general is still about as far from Plug-'N-Play as imaginable. It doesn't have a place on anything but servers, at least in the Wintel world.

At least Steve got some stuff done. When I showed up around 5:00, I found that John had been there since lunch time. He and Steve were working on the punchdown blocks and cabling for Steve's office. Steve has a 3Com ISDN router and ISDN service on order, but getting all that connected will have to wait for another weekend.


Updated: 31 May 2002 14:22

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