Day Notes

A (mostly) daily journal of the trials, tribulations, and random observations of Robert Bruce Thompson, a writer of computer books.

 

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Monday, October 26, 1998

I spent quite a bit of time yesterday trying to figure out what caused FrontPage 98 to change the date/time stamps on all of my files. I did some experimentation, using the zipped up copy of my original web from before the dates were all changed. In the ordinary course of things, I use FP98 running on kerby to update the local copy of the web stored on thoth.

I started by unzipping the known-good web to the junk folder on sherlock. I then fired up FP98 on sherlock and called up the web. It made no changes to the dates. I closed the web and then opened FP98 on kerby. When I used it to load the web stored on sherlock, it didn't change the dates, either. Okay, I was thinking it must be specific to the copy of FP98 running on kerby, but apparently not. Perhaps it's specific to the machine that the data is stored on.

I again unzipped the web, this time to the junk folder on thoth. I then used FP98 running on sherlock to open the web. It didn't change the dates. I closed the web, and then ran FP98 on kerby and used it to open the web stored on thoth. Again, it didn't change the dates. I can't figure out what's going on here. Fortunately, the web appears to be unaffected other than the fact that all the pages showed the current date. I'm going to write this one off to another inexplicable oddity with FP98 and NT. God knows there are enough of them. I'm really looking forward to FP2000, although perhaps I'll wait for the first service pack.


Well, I don't have time to mess with the FP98 problem any more, and the web appears to work okay, so I'll let it drop. Today's the start of another work week and another chapter, and I need to get to work on that.

Tuesday, October 27, 1998

When I tried to get my mail this morning, nothing happened. When I tried to check my web stats, I couldn't get to my web site. Not good. After performing some tests to verify that I had no IP connectivity, I called Bellsouth.net, my main ISP. They told me that their servers were down. As usual, they had no idea how long it'll be until they get the problem fixed. So, until they get things working again, I'm dialed into my wife's account at work. Presumably, I'll be able to publish this without screwing things up too badly. It does make it hard to work, though.

Dinner time: Got quite a bit done on the new chapter today. My editor mailed me to say that he liked the content and voice of the chapter I'd sent him, but at 62 pages it was a little long. Robert's almost British in his sense of understatement. I always write long, and I'll fix this one with the others when I do my second pass.

Wednesday, October 28, 1998

I stayed dialed in to my wife's Internet account most of the day yesterday, and was able to use it to get to web pages and to read my mail, although not to send mail. I finally dropped that connection at about 4:15 p.m. and tried Bellsouth.net again. The modem connected immediately, and I had no problems with IP connectivity.

I also spent a few minutes getting Barbara's Palm Pilot synch problem resolved. When I moved her to new thoth, I connected the synch cradle but couldn't get it to work. New thoth has two serial ports, a DB25 COM1: and a DB9 COM2:. The Pilot cradle has a 9-pin connector on it, so my only choice was to use COM2: I began to suspect early on that there was a problem with the serial port itself. COM2: was enabled in CMOS Setup, and Windows NT recognized it properly, so the problem has to do with the cable that joins the motherboard connector to the DB9 connector on the back panel. I probably got the cable connected backwards or offset by one column or row.

At any rate, yesterday I tried connecting a modem to both serial ports. Windows NT found the modem when it was connected to COM1: but not when it was connected to COM2:, confirming my belief. What I needed as a quick fix (to avoid popping the lid and actually fixing the problem) was an adapter that would let me plug the DB9 cable on the cradle into a DB25 port. Adapters for the other direction--using a DB25 cable on a DB9 port--are easy to come by, but the one I needed is less common. I thought I had one around, and while I was messing around behind my Linux box, there it was hanging out the back. It wasn't even being used.

So I pulled that adapter and connected the Pilot cradle to the DB25 serial port. I couldn't test it right away, because Barbara's Palm Pilot was at work with her and I don't have one. When she arrived home from work, I grabbed her Pilot and fired up the Hotsync program. Sure enough, everything works properly.

That's one thing out of the way. I need to leave a note on the case of new thoth to remind me that the next time I pop its lid I need to fix the COM2: connector and install a CD-audio cable between the CD-ROM drive and the sound card.

Afternoon: Got email from the folks at Golden Bow Systems, the makers of the Vopt disk defragmenter. I used and liked Vopt years ago, but wasn't even aware that they had an NTFS defragger. They sent me an init key for the NT version, which I downloaded this afternoon. I'm covered up at the moment, but I'm looking forward to checking out VoptNT as soon as I have a moment to call my own.

Speaking of covered up, it looks like I just agreed to do another project. This one has a very short deadline--as yet undetermined, but probably something like 3 weeks from now--and will be occupying my time about 14 hours a day 7 days a week until it's done. I'll try to steal a few minutes periodically to update these pages, but those updates are likely to be much shorter and less frequent than the norm.

And now it's 6:00 p.m. and time to go grab a sandwich or something before I dive back in.

Evening: Hard at work on the new project. It's 9:00 p.m. and I'm completely whacked. I think I'll take the rest of the day off.

Thursday, October 29, 1998

Well, we closed the deal on the new project. It has a two week deadline for the first draft, which means I'll barely have time to breath, let alone do much updating of this page. I'm co-authoring the project, which is some solace. At least there will be two of us going through hell for the next couple of weeks. At least the money is good, and there will be several ancillary benefits to doing the project, so I guess we can suffer throught it. Right now, I'm planning to work 7:30 a.m. until 9:30 p.m. seven days a week until it's done. With breaks for dinner and miscellany, that puts me at the keyboard 12 hours a day every day. That's about the most I can do and remain productive.

I did make some changes to the web site late yesterday afternoon while I was waiting for the client to call. I got rid of many of the Navigation Bars that use graphics buttons, and replaced them with simple text navigation links. That should speed things up some. I'll continue to replace graphic buttons with text links as I run into them.

Dinner time (6:15 p.m.) - other than a cumulative total of perhaps half an hour getting breakfast and lunch for my mother and letting the dogs out and in, I've been working heads-down on this new project since 7:30 this morning. I'm about whacked. I just heard the garage door go up, so Barbara's home and I'm taking a dinner break. Then I'll be back at it hard until 8:30, when I need to ship the outline to my editor, whatever state it happens to be in by then. Then I'll just collapse for a while.

Evening (8:15 p.m.) - I sent in my portion of the outline, such as it is, and am ready to call it a day. I'm probably not the first one to notice this, but at age 45 one doesn't have the endurance one did at 18. Twelve hours straight of intensive effort seems to be about my limit these days. Tomorrow is another day...

Later Evening (9:45 p.m.) - and the day's not over yet. My agent, David Rogelberg, called about 8:30 with some contract and administrative problems that needed to be worked out. After a flurry of emails and telephone calls, it looks like everything is back on track. I think I'll take the rest of the day off.

Friday, October 30, 1998

Well, my co-author and I both busted butt from morning to night yesterday, and it looks like the client is satisfied enough with our preliminary outline that he's given the go-ahead for us to start generating text on the basis of it. That's what I'll be doing all day today, and for the next two weeks or so.

Got the following mail Wednesday from Neil Andrew Sherin. Talk about above-and-beyond. He actually downloaded the driver and attached it to his mail.

Just been looking through your site - excellant and keep up the good work. I noticed you couldn't get scanner drivers for your Plustek 6000 scanner. I hopped over to www.plustek.com.tw and grabbed them for you. I enclose the attatched file.

Good luck with your writing and the web site. Hope this file helps.

Thanks for the kind words, and for taking the time to help. I was really excited when I saw your message and the attached file. After looking at it, however, I don't think it's going to work. The scanner I have is a "Color 6000". Apparently, they also make an "OpticPro 6000P" which appears to be incompatible at the driver level.

Still, the Taiwanese web page is a lot nicer about driver needs than the US page was the last time I checked it (just before I wrote that thing on my web page). I emailed their tech support people to ask exactly which files I need to run my Color 6000 under NT4. I'm somewhat hopeful, because they mention asking for drivers that you don't see listed. We'll see what happens.

Thanks again for your help.

And, as it turns out, the driver doesn't work. I mailed Plustek support asking which files I needed to run my Color 6000 under Windows NT, and got the following response, quoted in full:

Dear Sir,

We regret to inform you that we don't have any new driver for this model on NT.

Regards,

Plustek

I certainly won't be buying any more of their products, or recommending them in my books.  At least they did response, however. Many vendors wouldn't even have provided that courtesy.

Then some more mail this morning from Roger G. Smith:

I won't object if you replace the graphic buttons with text links... it's making a big difference on my slow connection already. Kind of a shame though, those were nice page designs.

A suggestion for the links at the bottom of the Day Notes pages --

[Up] is indeed "up", once you realize that the Day Notes has it's own home page of sorts, but it might be more intuitive to rename "Up" to "Day Notes Index", "About Day Notes" or such,... and add a "Top" button that jumps to the top of the page.

[Home] [About DayNotes & Index] [Site Index] [Top of Page] or some such.

 Though how you'll find time for any of this in the next two weeks is beyoud me.

'Congrats' in that you don't seem to be having any trouble staying busy!

Unfortunately, the "Up" is canned text from Front Page. The Front Page "Navigation Bars" are bots. You can indicate where you want them placed, but the only control you have over their contents is to select which elements will display. For instance, all those links at the bottom of my current home page are bot-generated. I didn't enter them manually. The advantage is that when I change anything, FP98 and the bot automatically add, remove, or redirect those hyperlinks.

I've always marked the check boxs for "Child Pages", which causes the pages linked to the page where the bot exists to each get an entry in the nav bar. I also usually check "home page" which causes a "Home" button to appear, and "Parent Page" which causes the "Up" button to appear. One thing I can do is change the text it uses for those Home and Parent buttons. I may change them from "Home" to "TTG Home" and from "Up" to "Up a Level" or something similar.

I'll check into it in my immense free time.

Roger has a good point. Ideally, the Navigation Bar bot would allow you to use the page name of the parent page, rather than just using a generic "Up" description. I can change the generic descriptions for "Up" and "Home", but any change I make to them is global for those buttons. So I can't, for example, make the "Up" button on this page read "Daynotes" and the "Up" button on the "Hardware I Use" page read "Stuff I Use". Whatever description I enter will appear anywhere there's an Up button.

I'd better get back to work on the new project...

Afternoon: I had to take my mother to a doctor appointment. When I got back, I found an envelope from Amazon.com in my mailbox. It contained a check for referral fees for the June through September quarter. A munificent $16.72. Not great, but better than the proverbial sharp stick in the eye. To be fair, this site is just now starting to generate any reasonable amount of traffic, so I'll probably do better for the current quarter. If I can get it to the point where Amazon.com pays my quarterly web hosting bill, I'll be happy.

Back to work on the new project...

Saturday, October 31, 1998

The march continues. I got my network backup done last night. This morning, it's back to work on the draft text. Fortunately, my wife understands how important this project is, and is willing to fill in gaps for me over the next couple of weeks. I'll have to take a couple days off afterwards and do anything she wants to do. Back to work...

Late afternoon (5:15 p.m.) - I've been working more or less straight through since 6:45 a.m. and am starting to run out of gas. All told, I've taken about an hour off today between fixing breakfast and lunch for my mother, blowing out the gutters, and taking a quick lunch for myself. Well, I did also play one quick game of Solitaire. That makes about 9.5 hours of work so far today. I think I'll take a hour or two off for dinner and a break and then put in a couple of more hours this evening. I have the first section almost 100% roughed out and about 50% done on the first polish, which means I'm about 2/3 to 3/4 done with it now.

Sunday, November 1, 1998

More of the same today. I'll work on polishing the first section and drafting the second section. Trying to cram a month or more of work into two weeks isn't fun. Barbara was having equipment problems yesterday. Her leaf vacuum wouldn't start, so she started using the blower. Then the recoil starter on it broke, and the pull rope ended up hanging out of it with no give either way. I know it can't be too hard to get that rope re-wrapped, but I just don't have time to deal with it. All hardware, whether computer or lawn equipment, seems to have a critical need detector built in. She ended up getting the leaves up with her mulching mower. Barbara is off playing golf this morning and will watch the Winston Cup race this afternoon, so I can get some work done today without feeling bad about ignoring her.

 


Coming Soon (I hope)

 

Updated: 05 July 2002 08:10

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