Week of 12/21/98
Friday, July 05, 2002
A (mostly) daily
journal of the trials, tribulations, and random observations of Robert
Bruce Thompson, a writer of computer books.
December 21, 1998
Two Books of the Week this week:
Lost Tomb, by Kent R. Weeks. This book, written by the man who
did it, tells the story of the re-discovery and exploration of KV5, a tomb
within the Valley of the Kings that may contain the graves of as many as
28 of the 30 sons of Rameses the Great. This book is both fascinating and
frustrating. Fascinating, because KV5 may well be the most important
Egyptological discovery of this or any other century. Even now, with
excavation just started, it seems likely that the information gained from
studying this tomb will be far more important to understanding the New
Kingdom than the treasures uncovered by Howard Carter when he opened
Tutankhamun's tomb. Frustrating, because the book is marred by poor
grammar and other flaws that should never have passed the copy editor. It
also loses focus by interleaving descriptions of contemporaneous life in
the area and discussions of the possible connections of this tomb to the
Biblical Exodus legends, things apparently added to "popularize"
the narrative. The book should have been twice as long and had about five
times as many photographs. Even so, it's a must-read if you have any
interest in Egyptology.
Daughters, by Jerrold M. Packard. Although it is not the first
book to focus on the five daughters of Queen Victoria, this is by far the
best of those I have read. Victoria, although the British sovereign, had
the value structure, outlook, and behavior of a lower-middle class German
hausfrau. Her family spoke German at home, visited Germany often, and
generally married Germans. They were British only by courtesy, and yet did
as much or more to affect the future course of Great Britain as did any
native subject.Victoria herself was stupid, self-righteous, and frequently
behaved in ways that would have led to her being placed in an insane
asylum had she been anything less than the queen. Although Packard makes
much of the supposed intelligence of her elder daughters, Victoria and
Alice, these women were intelligent only by comparison with the dullards
that made up the rest of the family. It was during Victoria's reign that
serious discussion of abolishing the monarchy began. With this woman as
queen and her children as heirs, it's easy to see why.
* * * * *
And this from Shawn Wallbridge:
Personally I like the lay out of your site.
I find it hard to keep up with everything on Jerry's site. I rarely read
the mail, and then I find out I have missed something good. Back when he
was writing about Linux, he had 2 or 3 pages going at once. I finally
just gave up. I have since gone back and read them all, but it was
taking too much time.
Yes, I share your frustrations with Pournelle's site
design. But it's not his fault, really, as I'm finding out for myself. He
simply has so many things going on that it's difficult to organize them
usably. Then there's the issue of making the material accessible after the
fact. He could simply organize things chronologically in his View and Mail
pages, but that'd make it very hard to go back later and pull out all the
material on, say, Linux.
I also like the typewriter face for readers
mail. I prefer reading black text on a light background and I like the
parchment background. Sometimes I have your site in one window and
Jerry's in another and I have to look twice to see which site I am
reading. But your lay out is different so it's not a big deal.
I'm returning to that convention for user mail. Although I
don't attempt to make my site resemble Pournelle's, I suppose it's no bad
thing if it does.
* * * * *
And this from Norman R. Neville:
I'd appreciate your opinion on an economical
CPU Upgrade for a 3 year old Packard Bell Legend 2430 (75 Mhz Pentium).
I upped the RAM to 16 MB a couple of years ago, and the Harddrive to a
2.6 GB a year ago. I'll probably increase RAM to 32 Mb next week. I
understand Evergreen is coming out with a PCI platform that should be
able to support almost any CPU. I'd just like to go to 233 or 266 Mhz.
I've read about the Evergreen PCI card and seen a picture
of it, but I haven't yet examined it. However, I'd suggest that you
consider a motherboard replacement rather than a CPU upgrade. You'll
probably spend about the same amount of money and get more bang for your
buck. The trouble with upgrading just the CPU is that you still have your
old chipset, BIOS, etc. If you replace the motherboard, you get the latest
chipset and BIOS, support for new features like Ultra-ATA and USB, and a
new motherboard that's designed for the higher performance CPU. In
general, the CPU upgrade kits are for people who want an easy upgrade
above all else. Installing one takes about five minutes, but you end up
paying more and getting less than if you upgraded the entire motherboard.
I don't know your specific machine, but I'd guess that it
uses a Baby-AT motherboard. If so, there are any number of alternatives to
choose from. You can check out http:www.motherboard.com
for some ideas. (They're two different companies). I'd be inclined to go
with either a board that will take an Intel Celeron-A (the "-A"
is important) or a Super Socket 7 board that will take the AMD K6-2. If
you go with the Super Socket 7 board, look for one that uses a VIA, SiS,
or ALi chipset. Steer clear of anything that mentions the TX-Pro or HX-Pro
chipset. If you go with the Celeron-A board, you'll have to buy new SDRAM
DIMM memory, but memory is pretty cheap nowadays. If you go with the Super
Socket 7 board, you may or may not be able to use your existing memory.
It's also possible that your system uses the LPX
motherboard form factor. Some "low-profile" systems sold through
mass merchants like Circuit City used this form factor. You can identify
an LPX motherboard by the fact that the expansion cards are installed in a
riser card rather than directly into the motherboard, making the expansion
cards parallel to the motherboard rather than perpendicular to it. If
that's the case, your motherboard replacement options are more limited. I
believe that Intel currently sells an LPX form factor board that uses the
BX chipset and supports the Pentium II and Celeron. If so, that'd be a
good bet, although finding the board may be harder than finding one of the
more mainstream boards.
* * * * *
And now I'd better get back to work. Barbara's at the gym now. When she
gets back, we have some errands to run. After that, I need to start
writing if I'm to have any hope of meeting deadlines.
December 22, 1998
And by popular demand...
Call for Tech Reviewers
In the past, I've mentioned that I wanted to offer my web site readers
the opportunity to serve as technical reviewers for my current book, but
that I had to get O'Reilly's approval to do so. Several of you have
expressed an interest in serving as tech reviewers, and this morning I got
the go-ahead from O'Reilly to proceed. The book I'm currently working on
is about PC hardware (not to be confused with the other book
about PC hardware that Pournelle announced on his site that we'd be
If you want to participate, please email my O'Reilly editor, Robert
Denn, to let him know you're interested. State your PC hardware
qualifications briefly, and let him know if there are any aspects of PC
hardware that you feel particularly qualified to review. If you know a lot
about hard drives but not much about motherboards (or vice versa)
that's fine. Don't be too intimidated by the "qualifications"
issue. If you've ever built a PC, done substantial upgrades to one, or
just take a strong interest in PC hardware, you may well be qualified.
Let Robert know if you're interested in reviewing one chapter, several
chapters, or the entire book. Although qualifications certainly play a
major role in choosing tech reviewers, there's a definite
first-come-first-served aspect to all of this, too, because there can only
be a limited number of tech reviewers. For this reason, don't take it
amiss if you aren't accepted as a reviewer. That doesn't necessarily mean
that you don't have good qualifications; it may just be that all slots are
already filled. So if you're interested, it'd be a good idea to let Robert
know as soon as possible. O'Reilly, not me, runs the tech review process,
so if you have any questions about any of this, please direct them to
And thanks in advance for volunteering to help.
* * * * *
This from Bo Leuf about Opera and cookies:
Opera tech support gave me the following
reply on cookie management: "No, you've not missed anything,
Opera's Cookies are that way. You'll be pleased to know, however, that
we are working on a cookie manager which will make its way into a
version of Opera in the not-so-distant future." Always something.
I'm not surprised. Opera seem to be pretty good folks from
everything readers have told me.
* * * * *
And this from Shawn Wallbridge:
I forgot to mention yesterday I have read
about the 'feature' in Office 2000 that forces you to register. I
recently read something about it (unfortunately I can't remember where)
that stated that they were only going to use that in shipments to Asia
and Australia. I was amazed that they would do that. But I will probably
get it even if they do force me to register.
Surely a company that spends $4 billion a
year on R&D could come up with a better solution to stop piracy.
Forcing the legitimate customers to endure nag messages and other
garbage is ridiculous. Imagine a car manufacturer forcing your car to go
to a dealership for an oil change every 3000m.
I've had several other messages saying pretty much the same
thing about the registration requirements for Office 2000, so I'm forced
to conclude that the article I read was incomplete. It mentioned the
forced registration after 50 startups, but said nothing about it being
limited geographically. I hope you're right, because I'd like to upgrade
to Office 2000, particularly for the enhancements to Outlook and
Actually, this isn't the worst I've seen. A few months ago,
I got an eval copy of IBM's ViaVoice speech recognition program. I was
shocked to find that registration was a required part of installation. You
can't use the product at all until you register it. They gave me a choice
of registering by fax, email, or telephone. When I finally got my blood
pressure under control, I called the 800 number, keeping in mind that it
wasn't the fault of the woman who answered the phone. I told her politely
that forcing people to register was unacceptable, and she told me that I
wasn't the first person to say that. She told me that she had to fill out
the form to generate an init key for me. She asked my name, and I told her
"none". I gave her the same response for address, telephone
number, and all the rest of the information the form required. At the end,
she gave me an init key based on the information I'd provided, which was
to say "none."
This situation is only going to get worse in the near future because of
the proposed changes to Article 2B of the UCC. Ed Foster, the InfoWorld
columnist, has been going on about this problem for some months now, but
it's beginning to look like the software industry is going to succeed in
getting the language they want into 2B, which will be a disaster for
For example, 2B as modified makes shrink-wrap license agreements valid
and enforceable. Someone proposed that vendors should at least have to
post their license agreements publicly on a web site or otherwise, but
that amendment was shot down because it would supposedly put too much of a
hardship on small software vendors. The upshot is that if 2B is accepted
as modified, you'll be buying the proverbial pig in a poke when you buy
software. You can't read the license agreement until you break the shrink
wrap. If you find the terms of that agreement unacceptable, 2B will kindly
allow you to not use the software. Don't plan on getting your money back,
however. Except for tightly defined "retail" purchases of one
unit, 2B will permit vendors to refuse to refund your money. That's
If you're not familiar with the debate about the changes to 2B, click here
to read the InfoWorld summary.
* * * * *
And now to work.
* * * * *
And this from Dave Farquhar, a man who obviously knows a whole lot more
about Packard-Bell computers than I do:
Upgrading Packard Bells presents some unique
challenges. I know them well, because I put myself through my first two
years of college selling mass-market PCs. Virtually any desktop PC sold
by a mass merchandiser in the past four or five years will have an LPX
motherboard, if not something even more proprietary (can you say
Compaq?). Packard Bell rarely uses anything but LPX boards.
Packard Bell power supplies tend to be
failure prone though, so upgrading a PB motherboard doesn't strike me as
wise. There's the difficulty of finding suitable LPX boards, then the
price you pay when you finally do find one. Expect to pay a $50 premium
over a comparable Baby AT or ATX board. Then, if your power supply goes
out six months later, you've got some real problems. Some Packard Bells
use standard-size power supplies, and some don't. So the cost of
replacement may be $40, or it might be $150.
There only seems to be two sensible upgrade
options for a Packard Bell (and this holds true for a lot of other
mass-market PCs). A drop-in CPU upgrade, which may or may not be
compatible. If the PC has a non-MMX Pentium, if you can find an IDT
WinChip, it's a drop-in replacement. The nice thing about WinChips is
they use the old 1.5x multiplier as a 4x multiplier, so a 240 MHz
WinChip is a drop-in replacement for a Pentium-90. No jumper changes, no
nothing. If that PB motherboard has jumper settings for a P-90 (which it
very well might), that's a cheap way to wring more performance out of it
--the WinChip-240 costs less than $70 if you can find one (check www.pricewatch.com).
The other option that makes sense is to buy
a new case, power supply, motherboard, video card, and CPU. While this
may seem wasteful, it will cost less than a comparable LPX board would,
and you've got a far better selection. It might even cost less than a
CPU upgrade kit from Evergreen or Kingston would. I just paid $75 for a
brand-new AOpen ATX board with a VIA chipset, put a $44 Cyrix 6x86MX CPU
in it (I intend to replace it with an AMD K6-3 when those finally come
out), and good ATX cases cost about $70. As for video cards, you can get
a $20 Cirrus Logic-based card that'll be better than anything a Packard
Bell would have come with three years ago, and you can go up from there.
I'm thrilled with my STB Velocity 128, which set me back about $80.
After you get that bundle, just transfer your memory, modem, sound card,
hard drive, floppy drive, and CD-ROM, and you've got yourself a system
that'll perform better than the CPU upgrade would have, at least as well
as the LPX board would have, and you've replaced all the components that
are most prone to failure. (My AOpen/Cyrix/STB combination makes a
fantastic business machine, and it wouldn't be half bad for strategy
And you're right to avoid any board that has
the word "Pro" or "II" in the chipset. Anything that
tries to sound like an Intel name should be avoided. Some vendors even
advertise these boards with "Intel TX Pro chipset."
Remember, Intel's been trying to exit the Socket 7 business for two
years. These are cheap knock-off chipsets that are neither fast,
reliable, nor compatible. That $35 price tag on that motherboard may
look good, but that's its only virtue. Pay the extra $40 to get
Obviously, books can (and have) been written
on upgrading PCs, because there's no "best" strategy that
works every time. The problem with such books is they're bound to be
obsolete by the time they make it off the press and into the stores.
I hope this can help Mr. Neville and other
Microcomputer Analyst, Lutheran
Views expressed in this document are my own
and, unless stated otherwise, in no way represent the opinion of my
Thanks. I'm going to post your message as is. You obviously
know a whole lot more about Packard-Bell PC's than I do. I agree that
mass-market PCs in general are poorer upgrade candidates than machines
(like those sold by Gateway, Dell, and others) that are built around
industry-standard components. Although I'm sure that the use of
proprietary components is at least partially due to manufacturer's desire
to limit users to buying upgrades from them, I suspect that it has more to
do with minimizing manufacturing and support costs, pure and simple. Mass
market PC manufacturers would kill to save 10 cents in manufacturing costs
In fact, given the amount of PC you can put together for
$1,000 or less, it often makes little sense to upgrade an older unit at
all. It's worth more to many people as a second PC than as a foundation
for an upgraded system. The cost of memory, monitors, and hard drives used
to be a stumbling block, but no more. For years, memory was pretty stable
at about $50/MB. With it now in the $1/MB range, recycling existing memory
isn't necessary. Same thing with monitors. It's amazing how much monitor
you can get nowadays for $300 or so. As far as hard drives, they're at a
couple cents a MB now and dropping fast.
* * * * *
And thanks to Roger G. Smith for letting me know about
this nasty new Windows NT virus:
Virus Snarls NT Nets
Heh. Well, the NSA never did rate NT as
secure with networking turned on AFAIK.
You can also read
more about this virus and how to determine if your Windows NT system
is infected at the Network Associates/McAfee web site. Basically, check
Start - Settings - Control Panel - Services. If Remote Explorer is listed
as a service, you are infected. Also, right-click on the Task Bar and
Choose Task Manager. Click the Processes tab to display the Processes
page. If either IE403R.SYS or TASKMGR.SYS (not TASKMGR.EXE) are listed,
you have it.
December 23, 1998
Well, the Weather Channel and the National Weather Service both say
we're likely to get an ice storm this afternoon and evening, so I may get
a chance to try out that backup generator. Barbara picked up two 6-gallon
gas cans and a bottle of gasoline preservative at Wal-Mart a couple of
weeks ago. We did a bunch of errands Monday, including getting an audio CD
cable for Barbara's computer and getting our cell phones reprogrammed for
the new area code, so we stopped at the gas station and filled up the
cans. She also picked up a case of motor oil, so we have everything we
need except a means to connect the generator into the house electrical
circuits. We do have a long heavy-duty extension cord, however, and
that'll at least let us alternate powering the refrigerators and freezer.
If it comes to that, which it usually doesn't. We get one or two
significant ice storms a year, but it's only once every three or four
years that the ice storm is bad enough to cause us to lose power for any
* * * * *
WinGate 3.0 is now
available. I downloaded it yesterday afternoon and installed the
WinGate Pro configuration on bastet, my Windows NT resource
server. I haven't configured it yet because I need to install a phone line
and modem for bastet. Looking at the list of new features,
however, it appears that WinGate 3.0 is a worthwhile upgrade. I've been
running WinGate Pro 2.0 for a year or so now. I never did bother to
upgrade to 2.1 because 2.0 was doing everything I needed it to do, and was
doing so with no problems at all. But since I'm getting ready to migrate
the WinGate server from sherlock to bastet, it made
sense to upgrade to the new version at the same time. I'll have a complete
report when I get around to doing that. Of course, the last time I set up
WinGate, the complete report consisted of "it installed flawlessly
and runs perfectly." There wasn't much more to say. If you need to
share one dialup or ISDN Internet connection with a small network, WinGate
is the way to do it.
* * * * *
We spent yesterday evening at the Tucker's house. After exchanging
presents with the kids, we played a few games of darts on their new
talking electronic dart board. Unfortunately, I'm no better at electronic
darts than I am at regular darts. It's embarrassing to be beaten by a six
year old. Still, it's amazing what a microchip can do. I also borrowed
Steve's toner and butt set, which I need to re-run the phone lines back to
Barbara's office for her business line and fax line. I'll probably get
that done this weekend.
* * * * *
And thanks to everyone who's volunteered to do tech review. Robert Denn
tells me that the slots are filling up quickly, so if you want to get
involved, now's the time to email him.
* * * * *
And this from Robert Morgan:
I'm not a bigger fan of forced registration
than you or anyone else, but why the double standard on your web site?
You rightfully complained about Win2000's
policy, as well as IBM's, but today you mentioned the new release of
Wingate, without a single word of their registration policy, which seems
remarkably similar and equally damning. To run the software you need a
key. To get the key you need to give your name to Wingate.
What's the difference?
I wasn't aware that I was using a double standard. When you
buy the IBM and Microsoft products, you're getting a physical product.
They already have your money, and there's no excuse for forcing you to
register a product that you've already paid for. In the case of WinGate,
you're downloading a product, for which you have to pay. Obviously, they
have to get your name and credit card information in order to get paid for
their product. However, WinGate is also available through resellers as a
traditional shrink-wrapped version with distribution media. If WinGate
forces users to register that version, I wasn't aware of it. If they do,
my objections to the IBM and Microsoft policies apply equally to WinGate.
* * * * *
And Roger G. Smith asks:
What is a "toner and butt" set?
This is a jargon test, right? :;)
Sorry. A toner is a device that cable installers use to
help them figure out which wires are which. You clamp the toner onto a
pair of wires and turn it on to put a musical tone on that pair. You can
then use an inductive amplifier at the other end of the cable to quickly
locate that pair amongst all the other pairs in your wiring closet.
My house has scores of cable runs. All of the cables are
beige or gray sheath with four pairs--blue, orange, green, and brown--and
all of them terminate to a panel in my basement. Figuring out which cable
goes to a particular outlet is non-trivial, even with everything labeled
pretty well. Putting tone on a pair within that cable makes locating it
easy. If you're running cable and don't want to pay $50 or $75 for a
toner/amp, you can also use an ordinary radio as the audio source.
The butt set is essentially an ordinary telephone with
alligator clips that allows you to connect temporarily to a pair to listen
to what's on it. It does have some features that ordinary phones do not,
like the "Monitor" switch that allows you to listen in without
going off hook. Some butt sets also allow you to generate the A, B, C, and
D DTMF tones that are not present on ordinary telephones, and can be used
for various network control purposes.
And speaking of color coded cables. The phone company long
ago established standard color coding to allow installers to identify
quickly cable pairs within a sheath. The one you're most likely to run
into uses five primary colors and five secondary colors to identify up to
25 pairs unambigously. The primary colors are white, red, black, yellow,
and violet. The secondary colors are blue, orange, green, brown, and
slate. White is the primary for the first five pairs, red for the second
five pairs, and so on. For each primary, you cycle through the
secondaries. So, a standard four-pair cable uses white as the primary, and
blue, orange, green, and brown for the secondaries. The two wires in a
pair are designated "Tip" and "Ring". Tip uses the
primary color with a stripe in the secondary color, and Ring the opposite.
So, Tip in the first pair is white with a blue stripe and Ring is blue
with a white stripe.
And how can one remember all these color combinations?
Well, Ma Bell (in the days before Political Correctness) used to teach
their installers to remember the colors by remembering the phrase,
"We Rape Beautiful Young Virgins, But Only Girls Beyond
Sixteen." I am not making this up.
December 24, 1998
Ice storm. Not a particularly bad one, so far, but the forecast is for
this to continue through tomorrow night. Only a few people have lost power
so far, but that's likely to change quickly as the ice continues to
overburden branches and trees. The forecasters are saying that this isn't
a major winter storm, so perhaps we'll be lucky. If we do lose power or
phone lines, this site may go without an update for a couple of days.
We're having Christmas at our house this year, and Barbara's parents'
and sister's houses are all the way across town. That's a 20 or 30 minute
trip one-way under normal circumstances, and probably an hour or more when
the roads are icy. If the traffic signals lose power, it could be a lot
longer. Barbara is going to call them this morning and see if she can talk
them into coming over here today and staying through Saturday morning.
We'll go get them in one of our 4X4s.
* * * * *
And this from Robert Morgan, which is a continuation of a discussion we
were having off-line:
I don't know about the free 2-user version,
but $39.95 seems reasonable for a three user home network.
Incidentally, there is no conclusion to my
cable modem - linux story. I had an urgent need for a db-backed web
server at one of my employer's remote sites, so my linux server has
moved on. Sure enough, the Motorola cable modem's reset button does make
it forget the MAC, letting me change where the modem is connected. Don't
quite know how I'll reconfigure things: currently the modem is connected
to my hub but sees the main Win98 workstation, and my laptop plugs into
the hub. Running Netbeui on the laptop and the Win98 box lets me move
files around, but my web access is limited to the Win98 box. I'd install
Wingate on it but I physically don't have room for a second NIC.
The linux server served me well, but I'm not
sure if I will replace it. I put in a second fast 10 gig drive on the
Win98 box and added another 64 megs of memory, and with Sybase SQL
Anywhere running locally I may just leave it at that. One less
noise-maker. That leaves my laptop and my wife's laptop. I'd really like
a wireless setup for them. Have you looked at any of the wireless lan's
So, to wrap up, I'm really limited to web
access on my main machine. It would be nice to figure out a way to give
the two laptops access but I'm not going to lose sleep over it.
You're right. Forty bucks is reasonable to provide shared
Internet access among three machines on a home network. The old WinGate
Lite was even more reasonable, however. It let you share two machines for
free. Actually, that product may still be available, because the WinGate
downloads page used to include (and still may) the option to download
earlier versions. If not, I'm sure that WinGate Lite is available from any
number of FTP sites elsewhere on the Internet.
Unless I'm missing something, you don't need a second
Ethernet card. Just install WinGate on the machine that has Internet
connectivity and assign IP addresses in the same subnet to the other
machines. The ISP is apparently filtering packets from all but the IP
address assigned to the one connected machine anyway. The other machines
can talk to the WinGate server on that IP subnet.
I haven't used any of the wireless products, but perhaps
some of my readers can recommend products that work (or ones to steer
* * * * *
And from Roger G. Smith about butt sets and toners:
Thanks for the explanation. Have wanted this
equipment since I first saw it in use, but didn't know what it was
Thanks also for the mnemonic for Bell's
(everybody's, really) cable color codes. I recall the phrase "Big
Boys Rape Our Young Girls, But Violet Goes Willingly" for the
resistor color codes, so I'm quite sure you didn't make it up. Although
these are rude phrases nowadays, their effectiveness as a memory aid is
first rate. I doubt I've read a resistor color code in 20 years, but had
no trouble recalling this.
When technical classes went co-ed,
instructors of the World War II generation had quite an adjustment to
make. Female Electrical Engineers and technicians? Who would have
thought? They were shocked.
It was funny watching somebody who'd been
teaching the same material for years to all male classes get toungue
tied when he remembered (usually just-in-time ;-) that he had females in
Well, they were rude phrases even back then, but all the
more memorable for it. Thanks for reminding me of the resistor color
codes. I hadn't thought about them since my ham radio days 30 years or so
You can buy a butt set and toner from anyone who sells
network cabling or telephone supplies. Be careful, though. I've been told
that in some jurisdictions one can be charged with possession of burglar
tools if caught with a butt set that you don't have a good explanation
for. That seems outrageous, but I've heard that often enough and from
enough different sources over the years to believe there must be some
truth in it.
Actually, the toner and inductive amp are a good thing to
buy. They're not that expensive, and it's fairly hard to make a field
expedient replacement for them from things you might have around the
house. The butt set is different. A decent butt set will run you $100 to
$250, and there's really no need for one. You can make a field-expedient
butt set from an ordinary telephone and some alligator clips. The best
kind of phone to use is the single-piece ones that you hang up simply by
placing the handset flat on a table. Two piece ones are a pain to use.
You can either cut off the end of the modular cable that
normally connects to the wall jack and replacing it with alligator clips,
or by wiring a cable with clips on it straight into the handset.
Internally, most phones use the old "quad" color code, which
uses Green, Red, Black, and Yellow for the first two pairs. Green
corresponds to pair 1 Tip (white with blue stripe); Red to pair 1 Ring
(blue with white stripe); Black to pair 2 Tip (white with orange stripe);
and Yellow to pair 2 Ring (orange with white stripe).
December 25, 1998
Merry Christmas. We got everyone hauled over here yesterday and spent
the rest of the day eating. The weather never did turn really bad,
although about 20,000 homes were without power for at least part of
yesterday. We put Barbara's parents in our bedroom and her sister in the
guest bedroom. That kind of discommoded the dogs, who are creatures of
habit. We heard a scream from Barbara's mother last night. When she went
back to bed, she forgot to latch the bedroom door. Our younger Border
Collie, Duncan, normally sleeps on the bed. Just as Barbara's mother got
into bed, she heard thundering paws and looked up to find 70 pounds of
sheep dog stretched out beside her on his back with his head on her
I guess it's time to go have breakfast and then start on opening
December 26, 1998
The ice had pretty much dissipated by yesterday evening, so Barbara
took her parents and sister home. Everyone agreed that this Christmas was
the best yet. A lot of that was because we weren't running all over the
place on Christmas Day. I think we'll probably have Barbara's family stay
over with us next Christmas Eve even if the weather isn't bad. Even the
dogs had a good time, with lots of extra people around to herd and plenty
of scraps to eat.
We'll take the rest of this weekend as a holiday, but it'll be back to
work on Monday. But I'd better do my normal network backup, which I forgot
to do yesterday.
December 27, 1998
Spent this morning doing laundry and catching up on my mail backlog. I
hadn't read or responded to much mail since Christmas Eve evening, so I
had quite a bit from the night of the 24th through this morning. I had
Outlook periodically sucking down the mail from the server, and I'm not
sure when it generates return receipts, so some people may have gotten
return receipts and wondered if I was ever going to respond. At any rate,
the backlog is now pretty much cleared.
* * * * *
And I got the following mail from Maurice or Marilyn McDonell regarding
I edit them as they come in. A pain but if
they are not related to the site I seek, they are refused. Double Click
is invasive but it is an automatic reflex action for me to delete them.
I sometimes do that too. In fact, I keep IE setup to prompt
for each cookie and Netscape setup to allow all cookies that are sent back
to the originating server. Between the two, and by choosing my browser
according to which sites I plan to visit, I can usually keep cookies
pretty much under control.
I'd intended to reply privately to that message and have tried several
times to do so, but keep getting messages that tell me the return address
* * * * *
And the following mail from Tom Syroid about the perils of upgrading
I trust your Christmas day was warm and
memorable. My morning was grand and full of the kind of excitement that
having a four-year-old in the house brings. My afternoon was less so,
though, thanks to Gates and Company...
My daughter recieved a new game she wanted
to play on the computer. Being as it only played in Win9X, I booted into
my Win98 partition for the first time in over a week. A notice appeared
that there was a "Critical Update" available from MS's site,
so without thinking about it much, I clicked OK to get it and install it
(I have MS's automatic update notification installed for Win98). Mistake
one. It dutifully downloaded the 2 files -- one was an OLE Automation
Fix, the other an IE 'Frame Spoof' security fix -- installed them, and
gave the usual reboot notice. Again I dutifully complied. Mistake two.
The system rebooted, began initializing the files to start Win98, then
promptly registered an invalid page fault (nee GPF) with MSTASK and
KERNEL32.DLL, followed by another with RUNDLL32, which very effectively
brought my system to its knees. Spelled FUBAR. I rebooted several times
-- including a full power down just for good measure -- still clinging
to the insane notion that things would fix themselves if just given the
opportunity. No joy. With a sign of resignation and my daughter still
clinging to her new game and waiting by my side, I inserted my boot
disk, formatted the partition, and set to reinstalling Win98 clean. A
beer was offically in order. Being as I only use the partition for games
and there were no special setups I needed to save, I reasoned it would
be faster to redo things than try to figure out what had trashed what.
Mistake three. Win98 installed as instructed and I was operational in
under an hour, but when I formatted I blew away my NT boot settings and
files. And as I use Win98 for games, but NT for my daily sustenance, I
had just messed very badly in my own nest. As Pournelle would say...
Feh. I managed to restore things file-by-file, edit-by-edit, and
reboot-by-reboot, but it was a slow and tedious process and any notions
of Goodwill to my Fellow Men was very definately out the window for the
afternoon. So much for Tom's Christmas Spirit.
Edit this long-winded story down as you see
fit, but remind your readers that just because an update is marked
"critical" by Microsoft this does not imply that it is well
tested or incapable of trashing your system. I know Pournelle has
cautioned us many times about these online updates and what they can do
to mess up a system, but I, quite frankly, never expected anything off
the critical update list to have the potential to render my system
unusable. And up until now, my system has updated any files I've
downloaded without trouble or error. I assumed these updates would
follow the same pattern. So much for assumption. Now I recognize that
this destruction could likely be due to interaction with something
unique to my system's setup, and further that I compounded my woes by
formatting without engaging my brain, but all this aside, there's no
excuse for posting files on an update site that are not thoroughly
debugged and tested. I once again wonder aloud how the
"average" user deals with such problems; users who do not have
the insight or ability to fix such catastrophic errors.
Could you please send me the attribute
settings for the NT boot files? I copied them piecemeal from the CDROM,
so they clean and currently exposed to damage. I know BOOT.INI is +S +H
+R, but what about NTLDR and NTDETECT.COM? I assume I've got all the
files I need in the right places because my system boots correctly into
everything on the menu, but if I've neglected something please let me
PS: I've been in contact with your editor
and look forward to working with you after the holidays are out of the
Sorry. I haven't been checking my mail much the last couple
of days. Autoexec.bat, Config.sys, and pagefile.sys are normal files.
Boot.ini is RS. Io.sys, Msdos.sys, Ntdetect.com and Ntldr are all RHS.
Thanks for volunteering. The last time I talked to him, Robert said he'd
already gotten half a dozen or so responses, so we'll see what happens.
Coming Soon (I hope)
Here are some things that are currently on my to-do list.
I may start some of them this coming month. It may be a while before I
start on some of the others, either because I don't yet have everything I
need, because interdependencies make it necessary to do other things
first, or simply because other work takes priority. But I'll get to all of