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Daynotes Journal

Week of 12/28/98

Friday, July 05, 2002

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


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Monday, December 28, 1998

The Book of the Week this week:

The Great War: American Front, by Harry Turtledove. If you like alternative histories, you'll enjoy this one. In this book, a sequel to How Few Remain, Turtledove imagines what might have happened if Robert E. Lee had succeeded when he invaded the North. Lee's military successes result in Britain and France recognizing and aiding the Confederate States of America against the USA. As this book opens, it is 1914 and World War I is about to begin, but with the USA allied with Germany, and the CSA allied with Britain, Canada, and France. WWI plays out in both Europe and North America. My only real objection to this book is that Turtledove missed an opportunity. He places his fictional framework much too much in the context of real historical fact.

In reality, of course, a change so large as the South winning the American Civil War would have had unknowable but significant impacts on subsequent history. In Turtledove's book, WWI happens on schedule (would there even have been a WWI?), and the technology and underlying world infrastructure is little different in his fictional world than it was in the real world. Turtledove misses a chance to speculate on what these major changes might have been.

For example, one of the unknown men who died young in the real Civil War might instead have lived and invented the vacuum tube 30 years earlier than it actually was, and the 1914 war might have been fought with modern electronics and computers. Or Henry Ford's father might have been killed and Ford might never have been born. Or, the transcontinental railroad, which was really completed in 1869, might never have been built. No one can guess what major differences might have occurred on this different time line, but the point is that there would have been many significant differences. Turtledove almost ignores this issue and misses the opportunity to speculate on what might have been. Overall, though, this is a pretty good book.

* * * * *

And this from Shawn Wallbridge:

Hello, after hearing about Pournelle's and Tom Syroid's problems with MS's Win98 Critical Update feature I thought I would let you know that I have always used the Windows Update feature. I have never had any problems. I actually like it. I hated having to search for the new patches on Microsoft's site. This makes it easy and convenient. I guess it is also convenient because of the cable modem, last night's update took less than 45 sec. to download. My machine booted fine after. I have quite a system, two SCSI cards, SCSI Zip drive,  and two tape drives (one SCSI DAT and  one QIC-80 floppy). I really hope I am not cursing myself here ;)

I would have to agree that MS needs to spend more time on testing and then more testing, but the way I look at it is: NT has what 40 million lines of code and we expect it to run on any machine we install it on. So there are going to be bugs. Hopefully MS fixes them quickly. I unfortunately rushed to install SP2 and I ended up re-installing. On my machine now I make sure anything on C: is expendable. If I have to format and re-install it is not a big deal. I normally do it every 6 months ( I play with a lot of shareware, so I end up with lots of remains kicking around). It now takes less than an afternoon to completely re-install everything.

I'm glad it worked for you, but Tom's and Jerry's experiences certainly give me pause. And I understand why you like the convenience of the on-line updates. I'm probably in a minority, but I much prefer to batch download updates, store them on my distribution server, and update machines from that local copy.

As far as regression testing, I agree that Microsoft has a big job on their hands, but they also have a lot of resources. And the job isn't quite as overwhelming as a lot of people seem to think. When you think about it, most PCs are pretty uniform. Probably 99% of the PCs capable of running NT use one of a small number of Intel and VIA chipsets, one of a handful of Intel and AMD processors, a Phoenix, AMI, or Award BIOS, etc. There are a fair number of variables, but nothing like the gazillions of permutations that most people think Windows has to deal with.

Since you're re-installing frequently, you might want to look DriveImage from Powerquest. It lets you store a compressed image of a partition on another partition. If you screw up the main partition, you can restore the compressed image very quickly. Using it is much faster than doing all the steps needed to reinstall and reconfigure the main partition from scratch.

* * * * *

And this from Bo Leuf:

You note in Sunday's daynotes:

"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 is invalid."

When my ISP changed/upgraded their mail software, I suddenly discovered (thanks to Jerry's posting) a similar problem in that some recipients could not reply to me. The short analysis is that when the recipient uses Outlook, it will grab the STMP envelope return address instead of the message's own "reply-to" or "from" one. Depending on the host's SMTP software, and the sender's configurations, this may or may not be the same as the sender's actual email address. Often you may see an extra subdomain inserted (e.g. xxx@mail.somewhere.tld).

I quote the Pegasus help file on the subject:

-v- (advanced network settings)

Use this "from" field to form the SMTP envelope. An Internet Mail message consists of two sections - the message and the envelope. The envelope is a kind of "wrapper" of delivery information that is passed from SMTP host to SMTP host, and includes information about the sender and recipients of the message in transit. You will usually never see the envelope, as it is discarded once the message is actually delivered. The only remnant of the envelope in your message is a special field amongst the message headers called Return-path, which contains the authenticated address of the original sender of the message. The Return-path information is usually only used by SMTP servers to handle errors, but unfortunately there are some mail systems on the Internet that ignore your "From" field address and instead send replies to whatever value is stored in the Return-path header. By default, Pegasus Mail forms the return-path header from your POP3 username and server information, since it knows this address is valid. In some cases, though, your POP3 address information may not be valid in the outside world - it might only be valid when you contact your Internet Service Provider directly. In cases like this, the small group of aberrant mail systems on the Internet may end up trying to reply to you using an address that is not valid. Checking this control tells Pegasus Mail to form your Return-path headers using the information you have supplied rather than the authenticated POP3 server information. Doing this will on one hand probably fix the problems users on the aberrant systems are having sending replies to you, but on the other hand may create local delivery problems. In short, if you have someone report that they cannot reply to your address even though you have a valid address in the "from field" section of this dialog, try checking this control.

Well, I don't think that's the problem here. Here's one of the bounce messages I got:

The original message was received at Sat, 26 Dec 1998 09:32:52 -0500 (EST)

from host-209-214-60-22.int.bellsouth.net [209.214.60.22]

----- The following addresses had permanent fatal errors -----

<mcdonell@mail.nanosecond.com>

----- Transcript of session follows -----

... while talking to mail.nanosecond.com.:

>>> RCPT To:<mcdonell@mail.nanosecond.com>

<<< 550 Invalid recipient <mcdonell@mail.nanosecond.com>

550 <mcdonell@mail.nanosecond.com>... User unknown

And here is the original message header:

Return-Path: <mcdonell@mail.nanosecond.com>
Received: from MAIL.nanosecond.com (mail.nanosecond.com [207.228.8.18])
    by bigbiz.com (8.8.7/8.8.7) with ESMTP id EAA28561
    for <webmaster@ttgnet.com>; Sat, 26 Dec 1998 04:14:58 -0800
Received: from mcdonell.pacbell.net
(node9-6.dialup.nanosecond.com [207.228.9.6])
by MAIL.nanosecond.com (Post.Office MTA v3.1 release PO205e
ID# 0-39890U2500L250S0) with SMTP id AAA171
for <webmaster@ttgnet.com>; Sat, 26 Dec 1998 04:21:11 -0800
Message-Id: <3.0.3.32.19981226040911.0069822c@mail.nanosecond.com>
X-Sender: mcdonell@mail.nanosecond.com (Unverified)
X-Mailer: QUALCOMM Windows Eudora Pro Version 3.0.3 (32)
Date: Sat, 26 Dec 1998 04:09:11 -0800
To: webmaster@ttgnet.com
From: Maurice or Marilyn McDonell <mcdonell@mail.nanosecond.com>
Subject: Cookies
Mime-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"
X-UIDL: 6b0afce546ee916acaeb549ed4491afc

Since you're running Pegasus, do you want to send me a test message with an intentionally malformed return-path header so that we can see what Outlook does with it?

 


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Tuesday, December 29, 1998

Well, yesterday I got a little bit done on a lot of things. Got some work done on the current chapter in the morning and afternoon. Robert Denn, my O'Reilly editor, mailed me in the afternoon to say that they were getting the rolling tech review set up and to suggest that we use web-based distribution to handle getting documents back and forth. I got that set up in late afternoon.

Then came time to play Toolman Tim. The three-way switches at the top and bottom of the basement stairs had failed. They're X10 units that allow the light to be turned on and off remotely. Rather than replacing them with X10 units, I decided just to use regular three-way switches. Barbara got back from a trip to Lowes and handed me the switches. They were Eagle brand, which I despise. I prefer Leviton, but only Home Depot carries those, and they're all the way across town.

I took off the cover plate for the one at the top of the stairs and pulled the old X10 switch. There were three wires to be connected, and it wasn't immediately obvious from looking at the wires which ones went where. Looking up into the wall, I could see two pieces of Romex. One Romex had two wires coming out of it, and the other only one. So I connected the two-wire Romex to the two terminals near each other and the single-wire Romex to the single terminal up near the green ground terminal on the switch. So far, so good, although Barbara is always nervous when I'm working on electrical stuff because I never bother to turn off the breaker first.

The switch at the bottom of the stairs was wired a bit differently, because it was pulling power off another circuit that powers a light in the garage. I was short one piece of wire, because the X10 switch that was there had a captive piece of wire that was connecting to the live circuit. Into the garage to find some Romex. I found a 50 foot box, cut off a 4-inch piece, stripped the sheath, pulled the black wire, removed the insulation from each end, and came back to work on the switch. The wire was too short, of course. Back to the garage to do the same thing, but this time making a 6-inch piece of jumper wire.

I got everything connected to the new switch and tried to mount it back into the box. The moron that installed the box didn't secure it properly to the stud. Nothing is more fun than trying to cram a switch connected to inflexible Romex back into the wall when there's no box to push against. It'll go into the wall, all right, but the box goes further back into the wall, too, making it impossible to secure the mounting screws to the box. With all the cramming and pushing, I managed to short the switch contacts against the metal box, thereby turning the breaker off by remote control. I left it off and worked by flashlight. Finally, by holding the edge of the box with my needlenose pliers, I managed to get the switch crammed into the box far enough that I could get the mounting screws started. I put the cover plate back on and turned the breaker back on. Mirabile dictu, everything worked.

With the electrical work done, it was time to turn to plumbing. The sprayer in the kitchen sink had seen better days, and Barbara picked up a new spray head while she was at Lowes. I got the old head off and carefully balanced the now headless hose on top of the sink. I managed to jar it, of course, and it immediately whipped back and down through the hole. That was when Barbara made her Toolman Tim remark.

I crawled around under the sink, through the bug spray and dishwasher powder, and finally got the hose back up through the hole. I got the collar back over the hose, but it was so tight a fit that it was almost impossible to get the retaining clamp back on. As I was working on that, Barbara turned on the faucet to rinse her hands, causing the still headless hose to spurt water all over the counter. If she'd only waited another 1.5 seconds, I'd have been staring straight down into the hose when she powered up the faucet. Toolman Tim indeed.

With my handyman chores complete, we took a break for dinner and then headed for the library to refresh my stack of unread stuff. It'll be interesting to start going to the library again as an ordinary patron instead of as the librarian's husband.

I also spent some time yesterday evening on the phone with my friend Steve Tucker. He'd bought an Intel Seattle system board a couple of weeks ago on the E-bay auction site. When we were over there a few days ago to exchange Christmas presents, Steve and I sat down and talked about which processor, memory, etc. he should get to turn it into a computer. I recommended the Celeron-A. Yesterday, Steve headed for Computer & Software Outlet and picked up a 300 MHz Celeron-A, a 128 MB DIMM, an Intel video card, a hard disk, and the other parts he needed.

Last night he was trying to get it all to work and couldn't get anything to happen. No video at all. As it turns out, the problem is that the original Intel Seattle (SE440BX) supports the Pentium II, but not the Celeron. The Seattle-2 (SE440BX2) supports both. So he's headed back for CSO today to see if they're willing to let him trade in his Celeron for a Pentium II.

* * * * *

And this from Glenn Elliott:

I read An Upgrade for Old Kerby and saw that you couldn't find drivers for the 4X Mitsumi CD-ROM drive.  These are on the Gateway Web site, but they are under the Windows 3.x/DOS section (under Desktop/Tower Systems).  In fact, there are drivers under that section all the way back to single-speed LMSI and Sony drives.  Unfortunately, there are no links from the Windows 95/98 section for drives under 8X, as you found.  I don't know how many Gateways you have, but if you have a few, there is another direct method of getting drivers beside the Gateway BBS (which Gateway stopped updating in May 1998).  If you would like more information, there is a file to download from the BBS.  Happy Holidays.

Thanks. I did eventually find the drivers I needed, but I'll go ahead and post this for others that may find the information useful.

* * * * *

And this from Bo Leuf:

Why don't you try

Return-Path: <mcdonell@nanosecond.com>

and see what happens.

> Return-Path: <mcdonell@mail.nanosecond.com>

This looks to me like a typically Outlook-mangled address (the "mail" part probably derives from his POP3 config). When Jerry was having problems sending to me, his Outlook kept insisting I had a "mail" subdomain just like that, no matter what my "reply-to" and "from" was set to at my end.

I'll give it a try, but the From: header explicitly includes the "mail" portion of the name.

And I did try it, and it did work. To make a long story short (and condense a lot of mail between me, Bo, and Mr. McDonnell) the problem is at Mr. McDonnell's ISP, either with its configuration or with the way it's telling people to configure their mailers. Bo sent me a message with an intentionally mangled return-path, and I did a simple reply to it in Outlook 98. OL98 correctly replied to the From: header rather than to the return-path header. I don't doubt that the problems Bo described occurred with Outlook, but my guess is that it was the pathetic OL97 rather than the considerably improved OL98 that caused the problems.

* * * * *

And this from Jeff Williams:

Robert, happened across your musings about the pentax spotmatic. I too still have one and everything works except I have lost the manual and cannot remember the battery number. I know this is a strange request but do you happen to know what the number of the battery is.

Not at all strange. As a matter of fact, you're the second person in the last couple months to ask exactly the same question (see my Daynotes for 11/16), so I'm copying her on this reply as well. I took the battery out of my Spotmatic, and it's a standard Energizer EPX76 silver oxide hearing aid battery that you can buy in any drugstore. I also dug out my 1970-vintage copy of Herbert Keppler's The Honeywell Pentax Way, which specifies a Mallory RM400R or equivalent.

* * * * *

And this from Tom Syroid:

Regarding Shawn's comments on MS Update:

I'm pleased to hear that Shawn has not had any trouble with the update feature of Win98. I too used it without trouble until last Friday; so much so I had the automatic notification component installed and when it did what it was supposed to do I thought nothing of absently clicking the OK button. I still hear myself muttering ya-ya under my breath and waiting impatiently (funny how quickly one gets used to a cable modem...) for the download to complete.

Fortunately, the drive that got hit -- like Shawn's -- was expendable as well. It held a base copy of Win98 for game playing only and I managed to re-create it without a lot of fuss or effort. The biggest effort came in fixing the boot process so it could find NT again, and I admit that was my own stupidity, not Microsoft's. But as much as I'm thankful for the good side of the equation, I'm still enraged over what happened. Here's why:

1. I trusted that a component that MS deemed to be "critical" for the health of my system had been thoroughly debugged -- it obviously had not.

2. My system is not complicated. It is a P100 Deskpro with a Sound Blaster card, an Intel network card, an Adaptec SCSI card, and a Quantum HDD. The fact is, the update did not disable or screw up a hardware device. It overwrote one of MS's own system files such that there was a memory conflict. If the update had rendered some individual piece of hardware unusable or messed up another program file, I would not likely have been so choked. But it made my Win98 partition unbootable and brought everything to a violent halt. Very ungood. Very unacceptable.

3. I am firmly attached to the idea that if you're going to write something, write it properly before you distribute it to the general populace. If it has not been tested THOROUGHLY, tell me so and I will make an informed decision as to whether I want to try it or not. There's an important place for both alpha and beta testing. I've beta tested for years and I do so knowing all the associated risks. I further recognize the inherent intricacies of having 40 million lines of code in a product. But we didn't ask MS to write such outrageously bloated code. As a matter of fact, there is a rapidly growing swell of users (like myself) who would like to see nothing better than a full stop to "featuritus" and a complete rewrite of the fix-over-fix-over-fixes that are the major contributor to the huge size of today's programs. And the huge instability.

When I go back and read my words from the 26th, it's easy to see I was pretty incensed, and that's really not what I wanted to convey to your readers. I wanted to ensure that everyone knew the risks of flippantly hitting the OK button -- don't get complacent like I did. And please, don't assume that because it's on MS's page and it says it's a Critical Update, it doesn't have the potential to create havoc with your system.

Isn't this fun? And the Marines think they got something up on adventure -- wait til they try computing...

So when are you going to get Exchange Server up and running around there and get a discussion group happening??? You seem to have a lot of free time, and you must have an eval around there somewhere. If not, I could lend you mine... :)

PS: You're right, the Expedition Theme you used is definitely not green in any way, shape or form. I found it last night when I was messing around with FrontPage 2000.

Well, it seems to me that you were entitled to be incensed, and it seemed to me that you came across just fine in your earlier message. As far as Exchange Server, I did have it up at one time, but got rid of it. If the volume of mail I'm getting continues to grow, I may bring up a discussion forum here. FrontPage 98 has that capability built-in, but I haven't had time to play with it.

* * * * *

And this from Maurice McDonell:

Life's many lessons come from disparate sources. Please bear with me while I vent my spleen over some of the inequities perpetrated upon the public by the PC industry at large.

For two years, I have used Eudora Pro E-Mail because it seems to make sense to me and it was working. Unknown to me was some quirk that acted like a time bomb.

Communications is a difficult subject for me for some reason. As a novice, the frequent use of special words common to a discipline can be confusing. In frustration, I can take refuge in the thought that those technical types are on a higher plane and don't need to communicate. A common term such as Geek can substitute for those who speak a different language. (We used to say: "It's all Greek to me". That was not sufficient, apparently.)

The problem is that one must know the audience before one can write to the audience; not "up to it" and not "down to it". If the match is successful, knowledge is delivered. If there is a mismatch, one could think that someone (the novice) is "trying to break into the club or some sort of secret society" and the failure to communicate is not a problem. The result is that telephone people remain talking, smugly, to telephone people. For some reason, this annoys me.

Your note about the return address triggered the bomb. Again. Some kind person(s) took pity on my ignorance and set e-mail things up for me in some way. So, at goldrush.com and pactel.net I had no problems and wallowed in ignorance.

We just relocated our residence (English for "moved") from San Andreas in Calaveras County CA to Gardnerville in Douglas County NV. On December 24, we started our new internet and e-mail account with Nanosecond, the local ISP. They recommended Microsoft Mail or Exchange or whatever but you already know what my choice was.

The POP account had always been mcdonell@goldrush.com or mcdonell@pactel.net or something similar. Now, it had to be mcdonell@mail.nanosecond.com instead of mcdonell@nanosecond.com as I had it at first. With the latter I could be a sender but not a recipient.

Desperation comes in different forms. I regard resorting to the technical manual as an admission of defeat. Even worse is resorting to a call to technical services. I did the latter and got the darned POP thing corrected and all was well. Or so I thought.

What turned out to be the real problem was not inserting a return address. Somehow, it had never been necessary because Eudora simply echoed the POP name if the space for return address were left blank. Of course, my return address is not mcdonell@mail.nanosecond.com but I thought it had been.

I feel humbled. Some kind person (i.e. High Priest), seeing that I was an idiot, "tweaked" a mailbox account so that it would work with my configuration setup. That was easier than trying to explain it to me, an orphan of 62 years age. I have been at the wrong end of condescending explanations and I can tell you how I liked it, too. I sense an opportunity here.

Now Robert, I ask you, if these trifles are so crucial, how the devil does ANY e-mail program EVER work at all? How does all this human effort ever converge to produce a useful thing? Is it true that we are recipients of technology that was developed by millions of monkeys with a typewriter? Where are we headed?

Imagine me, a confirmed idiot, trying to explain to my wife how to use the new e-mail account! She is smart enough to refuse to use the internet account. Too lacking in discipline for her.

Thank you kind sir for your patience. I admire your writing style. It is refreshing to find out that there is a relationship between digital pixel output of a camera and the maximum undistorted size of a printer output. Even if I have to admit that I don't completely understand enough to allow me to select the right mix of camera and printer. (My wife loves the Sony Mavica).

I understand your frustrations, and I agree that those of us who are responsible need to do a better job of communicating. Part of the cause of the frustration is that computer people, like many other specialists, take the attitude, "you don't have to understand this, just do exactly what I tell you." And although it's frustrating to be on the receiving end of something like that, there's good reason for it. They're right. You don't need to understand it. All you need is for it to work.

There's no reason for most users to understand the intricacies of SMTP and POP. Gaining that understanding would be a lot of work for no particular purpose, because configuring mail is (or should be) a "set it once and then forget about it" process. And ISPs do a much better job of providing rote instructions than they used to. My ISP, for example, has detailed instructions, including screen shots, for configuring Netscape Communicator and Outlook Express under Windows 9x.

ISPs need to do better, though, and there's no reason they shouldn't. They can reasonably assume that the vast majority of their users will be using Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows NT 4, Windows 3.1, or the Mac. They should provide detailed step-by-step instructions for each of those operating systems with each of the half-dozen most common mailers on each platform. They should include screen shots, detailed explanations of what each field means and how to enter your own information in it, etc. They should provide examples, and not just for Netscape mail and Outlook Express. Outlook 98, Eudora, and Pegasus are all common enough that they deserve detailed instructions as well, on a platform by platform basis.

* * * * *

And still more from Maurice McDonell:

We use a Gateway P5-100, lately upgraded to 200 MHZ MMX (Intel) with 48 MB RAM. With it we run Win 95

We have a mystery modem, a clone from USR that was made for Gateway in March of 1996. Its label rates it at 28.8/14.4 speed but it may be running at 33.5 or higher. Our new ISP has a very fast "Timeout" that seems to be a minute or so. ISP claims 20 minutes; advised me to set Win95 to 59 and I did.

ISP claims the timeout is caused by the ancient modem we use. It is six months ahead of the "x2" thing so it cannot be modernized (i.e. upgraded to 56K) with software. I believe this is true. I do not believe that this is the cause for a fast timeout. Rather, it appears that the ISP capacity is lacking. We have GTE for local telephone service and have had no problems with it yet. There is, however, the usual knocking of the telco when ISP is discussing connectivity issues.

I shopped around for the USR 56K Modem but am unwilling to buy one now. My son lives in Irvine, CA and has a cable modem from COX Cablevision. It has some vague limitation but it is as fast as a T-1 line to me. Your discussion of Modems has me wanting to wait some more; even if I do have to contend with insufficient capacity.

Hmm. It sounds like your Gateway modem is a relabeled USR Sportster. By "timeout" I assume that you mean an inactivity disconnect, i.e. that if there is no activity on the connection for one minute, the connection drops. I do vaguely recall a bug in early Sportster 28.8 modems, but I don't think it had anything to do with inactivity disconnect. You could check the web site (www.3com.com) and search the Sportser FAQ for more information.

From what you've said, it sounds like the short timeout is indeed set at the ISP end, although that seems really strange. A 20 minute inactivity disconnect sounds normal. My ISP, BellSouth, uses a one hour disconnect, I believe, as well as a 12-hour limitation on sessions. After you've been connected for 12 hours, it drops the connection even if you're in the middle of downloading a file. But a one minute disconnect, although normal for an ISDN line, is ridiculous on an analog line. The only thing that makes me wonder if the problem really is on your end is that a one-minute disconnect would result in daily howls of outrage from most of the ISP's customers.

As far as buying a new v.90 modem, I wouldn't bother. Someone, perhaps John Dvorak, observed that the Internet is a 28.8 service. By that, he meant that no matter how fast your connection to the ISP is other limitations elsewhere--busy servers, choked backbones, etc.--restrict throughput to the 28.8 range. I'm not sure it's quite that bad. On average, you do get a little better throughput with a 56K modem, and noticeably better throughput with ISDN, but it's nowhere near a linear relationship to your connect speed. I still use a 33.6 modem, and I typically connect at 31.2 Kbps. My friends who use 56K modems tell me that they average anything from 33 to 38 Kbps. That's just not enough difference to be worth the upgrade to me. I'd probably go with ISDN, which is noticeably faster, if BellSouth offered flat-rate service at about the same price I pay for analog. They don't. It costs $70 a month for the ISDN line service, and ISPs charge more (and by the minute) for ISDN access. I'm holding out for ADSL or cable modem, whichever arrives here first.

* * * * *

And now it's back to work for me. I have deadlines to meet, and I also have year-end stuff that I need to get done, so there won't be a whole lot more up here until after the first of the new year. Happy New Year.

 


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Wednesday, December 30, 1998

Okay, I admit it. The first time Pournelle commented about dropping everything to go watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I thought he was kidding. The second time he mentioned it, I reluctantly concluded that he was serious, but wrote it off to a mild eccentricity. Then the new TV Guide came yesterday, and I was flipping through their list of the 10 best shows of 1998. There sat Buffy at number 4. I noticed that Buffy was on last night, running a special double episode that had originally run as last year's conclusion. This week's TV guide listed it in one of those Editors' Choice boxes. So I decided to watch it.

At 8:00, I turned on the TV and switched to Channel 3. Nothing but blue screen. Either the cheesy UHF station that runs WB stuff locally was off the air, or our cheesy local cable system was screwed up again. I gave up on the whole thing, but at about 8:45 Barbara pointed out that these episodes were also running on WGN. So, what the heck. I tuned in to WGN to watch the second episode.

Although I had a general idea of what the show was supposed to be about, I was completely lost. It even took me a while to figure out which one was Buffy. I did eventually figure out what was going on, however, and Pournelle is right. This is a really good show. It's high camp, certainly, but it's well written, well acted, and funny.

I particularly liked the scene where Buffy, who is on the run from the police (who believe she killed someone) is nabbed by an officer in a patrol car. Just as all looks lost, someone steps out from screen right and punches out the cop. That someone turns out to be Spike, apparently the head vampire and Buffy's mortal enemy. It seems that Buffy's friend Angel has lost his soul and plans to destroy the world. Both Buffy and Spike want to save the world, each for their own purposes--Buffy because she's a good guy, and Spike because he wants to preserve his food supply ("billions of people walking around out there, like Happy Meals on legs"). Neither can do it alone. They stand in front of the patrol car and the unconscious cop having a rational discussion about why they should co-operate. Every few seconds, one of them hauls off and punches the other one in the face, but that doesn't change the fact that they must become uneasy allies.

At any rate, from seeing just one episode, I'm prepared to concede that this show might be worth watching. But the number and length of the commercials is hideous. I'm going to start recording it on my commercial-zapping VCR.

* * * * *

And speaking of Pournelle, he's going on about power saving modes right now. What he'd like to do is have his monitor go into sleep mode without the rest of the system doing so. I really wonder about PC power consumption. I have an eval APC Smart-UPS 1000/Net under my desk right now. It has a set of LEDs to indicate the percentage of load. The first one indicates 17%, or 170 VA. Just for the heck of it, I tried connecting a lamp to the UPS. With the UPS driving a 100 watt light bulb, none of the LEDs illuminated. With a 150 watt bulb, the first LED flickered on. Because a light bulb is a purely resistive load, VA equals watts, so that indicator LED is pretty accurate.

Right now, I have two computers connected to that UPS. One is a Dell XPS-M200s 200 MHz Pentium with 64 MB, three hard drives, and a 15" monitor. The other is a Pentium II/300 with 128MB, one hard drive, and a 17" monitor. There are also a modem and a couple sets of speakers. With all of that, the second UPS indicator LED (33%, I think) still hasn't come on.

So it seems to me that even with the monitor powered up, a typical PC consumes about the same or less power than a light bulb. Given that a monitor is subject to the same thermal stress damage that frequent power on/off cycles cause, it seems to me that having the computer put the monitor to sleep frequently is a bad idea.

* * * * *

And more on suppressing cookies from Andy Peters:

I've been reading your comments about cookies on Jerry Pournelle's web site. I agree with you - cookies are, at their best, an annoyance. At their worst... ? And using a browser's cookie-control features isn't much help.

Anyways, you mentioned programs such as Cookie Crusher which can help deal with cookies. I've been using something called @guard, by WRQ. (http://www.atguard.com) I stumbled across it a couple of months ago, when it was in its first beta. Now, I normally don't install beta software on my machines (I need them to work; I really don't have much time to experiment!) but this seemed simple enough. As it turns it, the beta wasn't bug-free (uh, blue-screen-of-death, anyone?) but their tech support has been excellent and the release version (v2.2) has been completely stable. I was invited to test the new v3.0, and I find that to be stable, too. I imagine that the new release will be out in mid January. What's it do? Several really neat things.

First, it has smart cookie control. When enabled, it checks pages for cookies and pops up a dialog asking you if you'd like to kill all cookies for a domain, allow all cookies for a domain, or selectively allow or kill individual cookies. Refer fields can also be blocked.

It also blocks ads and ad graphics. It looks for certain strings in URLs and if it matches an ad, the ad is never downloaded. You can also drag ad (or other annoying) images to an "ad trashcan" which adds the URL of that ad to the list of blocked locations. You can also kill script-based popups. You can stop animated GIFs from spinning, too.

There's also a "firewall" feature, which allows you to control TCP and UDP access to and from your computer. This is very handy, especially if you suspect that someone is doing low-level network attacks. When inbound packets arrive, the dialog pops up and asks if you'd like to restrict or allow communication from the remote server. It looks at all ports, not just common ones like http and ftp and such. There's an outbound control, too, which honestly I don't find to be very useful.

There's a handy statistics window, and the new version (v3) will have a "dashboard" feature which shows the number of open ports, what's going on where, etc. v3 will also allow you to control ActiveX stuff.

The software is available for a free 30-day evaluation and costs $29 for the regular (not timed) version. DISCLAIMER: No, I don't work for them, but they did send me a very nice sweatshirt for helping to track down bugs. Sorry if this sounds like an ad, but this little program actually works.

Sounds like it's worth checking out. I may give it a try, although Navigator's "Accept only cookies that get sent back to the originating server" option seems to be working pretty well. I've been using Navigator pretty heavily since I wrote that last rant, and it hasn't accepted a bad cookie since then. It's had plenty of opportunities to accept bad ones, too. I'm coming to the conclusion that Navigator's cookie protection is about 99 and 44/100ths percent pure. I'm using Navigator 4.05 for Windows NT, and I keep hoping that the next version will be better. Compared to IE 4.01, Navigator 4.05 is much slower, crashes much more often, frequently screws up the video color palette when multiple instances are open, and is clumsier to use in many respects, although it does do a few things (like cookie suppression) noticeably better than IE.

* * * * *

And this from Maurice McDonell:

I was browsing through your daybook journal and was startled to see that I was not the only one experiencing weirdness with my e-mail configuration. The first letter attached to your journal page said much the same thing for the solution: The POP account name cannot (any longer) be the same as the return address name and the specific return address line cannot (any longer) be left blank.

I was unaware of this dialog in your day notes when I wrote you on that issue. I am glad to have been a contributor. Thanks for your responses and your patience.

You are correct on the notion that e-mail configuration is a "Set and Forget It" issue. It was the change we made in ISP that triggered all of these problems. It was a "Firebell in the Night" (comment on the Dred Scott decision) for me.

Incidentally, your Book Review on the Civil War is an incredible coincidence. While on the road on the 28th, my wife and I were discussing a book with the same premise that I read sometime back - maybe 1976. In it, General Grant dies from injuries incurred in a fall from his horse. On the very day before we had this discussion, I watched a lecture on TeeVee by a fellow who presented the topic of Abraham Lincoln as Commander-In-Chief and his evolving war strategy. The speaker presented 5 phases of the Union (Lincoln's) strategy which I think ran something like this:

1. Win the war by winning decisive battles and capturing important places.

2. Realize that "Driving the Enemy back to Southern Soil", after Antietam, was a misconception. Southern Soil is/was Union Soil - the very premise of the war. It was an impossible task to win by observing the secession as de facto (?)

3. After "capturing" 50,000 square miles of "southern soil" in 1862-3; realize that places do not count. Destruction of armies is the only way to win. Allowing any Confederate Army to escape into a fortified city is not a victory. Attack in as many places as possible to fully exploit the numerical superiority of the Union Army.

4. Deprive the south of its means of making war. Capture and destroy property. The Emancipation Proclamation was an expression of this strategy. Deprive the south of its labor and its factories.

5. Direct forces against those who support the war and its objectives. Sherman's March was the epitome of this strategy.

The speaker observed that no general of the Union Army understood any of this except Grant. Note that Vicksburg and its army were captured and/or destroyed on the same day that the Union allowed the southern army to escape from Gettysburg.

Returning to the story, the South "Won" because of Grant's premature death and by the inability of the North to prosecute a war without him. The story went on to a somewhat sappy conclusion in which both sides embraced in the face of Fascism. It held my attention to the end. Your reservations about probability are well stated. I shared some of those misgivings as well. That sure sounds like the same book. I did not see the publication date of the subject of your review. Was it a re-issue?

Michener's "The Source" fooled me completely until I looked at a map of the area and found no such townsite as he described. I couldn't put it down.

(Three of my great grandfathers survived battles at Murfreesboro, Jackson and Antietam ; respectively. One kept a tiny diary that I once held in my hand and read.)

Well, I took the book back to the library already, but as I recall it had a June, 1998 copyright date on it. I don't believe that it was a re-issue, either.

* * * * *

And I'd better get back to work. I'll be pretty much occupied the rest of today and tomorrow with corporate year-end stuff, and then through the weekend with various other things, so I'm not likely to have much time to add content here until next week.

 


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Thursday, December 31, 1998

And yet another peculiarity of Navigator 4.05 for NT. I had one instance open and minimized on my task bar. I double-clicked the Navigator icon on my desktop to open another instance, but nothing happened. I thought I'd missed the double-click, so I did it again. Still nothing. I right-clicked the icon and chose Open. Still nothing. I fired up Task Manager and sorted the processes alphabetically. Sure enough, there were four instances of Navigator--the original one consumiing 7+ MB of RAM, and the three new ones each consuming much less RAM. The CPU utilization was at about 1 - 3% while I looked at the processes.

I was just getting ready to go in and kill the Navigator processes manually, when three new instances of Navigator popped up on my desktop. This was at least a minute after I started them. It wasn't like the processor was pegged out or anything, so what were they doing for a minute or more? And it wasn't any general system problem, either, because I opened and closed several other programs normally while this was all going on.

And, come to think of it, why does the second and later instance of Navigator always come up in a window rather than full screen? This is apparently hard-coded into the software. Nothing I've tried changes that behavior.

* * * * *

I'm working on developing a contact at Intel to get evaluation units from. He called a couple of weeks ago in response to my original mail message. I told him at that time that I wasn't ready to start requesting stuff, but I'd do so as the need arose. Yesterday, I mailed him to request an eval unit of the RC440BX system board and a Celeron-A processor. We'll see what happens.

I want to use these to build a low-end project system around for my book. When most people think about building a low-end system, they think about using a Taiwanese Super Socket 7 system board and an AMD, Cyrix, or IDT processor. Even I, who should know better, tend to think of Intel system boards and processors as high-quality, but expensive. That's not necessarily the case. The original cacheless Celerons were dogs, but the Celeron-A has 128KB of integrated cache. Unlike the Pentium II, whose 512KB of integrated cache runs at 0.5 processor speed, the smaller Celeron-A cache runs at full processor speed.

For many tasks, this means that the Celeron-A can compete on an almost equal footing with the equivalent speed Pentium II. With Celeron-A prices rapidly dropping near the $100 range, that means that a Celeron-A can be a cost-effective choice versus an AMD K6-2 or one of the other alternative processors. Also, a significant fraction of the cost of the Celeron-A is in the Slot 1 form factor. The new PPGA Celeron-A CPUs should provide equivalent performance to the Slot 1 versions, but at a lower cost.

That leaves the system board. On first glance, the Intel RC440BX at around $200 seems expensive compared to the $100 Taiwanese boards. But when you consider that the RC440BX includes an embedded nVidia Riva 128ZX AGP video adapter and embedded Creative Labs SoundBlaster AudioPCI 64V sound, that difference disappears. Indeed, the RC440BX nets out as less expensive than many alternatives.

* * * * *

And this from Tim Werth, concerning PC power consumption:

http://www.winmag.com/library/1999/0101/how0065.htm

Since there seems to be an ongoing discussion of the power consumption of desktop PC's you might find this article interesting by John Woram that is in this months Windows Mag. John took the trouble of actually measuring the current used by monitors and PC's under various load. One of the interesting things that I hadn't thought of was that a monitor pulls more current to display a solid white screen than it does to display 3-D graphics. One thing that John Woram pointed out in the article is that taken alone the cost savings from having a single monitor go into sleep mode isn't much, but that a whole office taken as a whole can add up over a years time. Probably especially since some people don't shut off monitors at night.

On another subject over the last two weeks I put together two machines using AMD K6-2/350 MHz chips. For one I used the ASUS P5A m/board (ATX version) and a Matrox Millennium G200 w/8 MB SGRAM. For the other system I used the FIC 503+ m/board (baby AT version) and an STB Velocity 4400 card. Both worked extremely well with the only real problem coming from a Creative Labs SoundBlaster Live! Value soundcard. Turned out the card was bad and had to be replaced. As far as any of the problems you have been describing I haven't encountered any of the problems you have w/sleep mode. However, I always disable all powersaving features except for the monitor and I don't use a screen saver. I just have it go into sleep mode. YMMV

Have a Happy New Year

Thanks. That is a very interesting article, and it saved me having to hook up an ammeter and check things for myself. After reading it, I think I'll just stick with my usual method, which is to turn all power management off and set the Windows screensaver to Blank Screen.

* * * * *

And I got the following mail from Steve Tucker, who's building a system around an Intel Seattle SE440BX system board he bought on E-bay. The Celeron-A he bought on my advice doesn't work with the SE440BX (although it does with the SE440BX2), so Steve took it back to Computer & Software Outlet and swapped it for a Pentium II. Fortunately. I thought I was going to have to buy the Celeron from him. At any rate, here's a report on his progress.

Thought I would give you an update on the building of the new system:

1. Attempted to update the bios but it failed and since I didn't want to render the system board useless I gave up on this after only a couple of tries. This board is registering p03 at the end of the bios string which I think is the 3rd update and Intel is now up to 10. I checked the Micron sight and they are only up to P04 on the bios update so I didn't think that would help anything. Besides it would still stick me with the Micron logo on the startup screen.

2. I then started to install the sound drivers and this is where things ground to a halt.

I downloaded the sound drivers from the Intel sight and about 80% through I got a general protection fault, so I rebooted and windows hung. I said O Shit. Then I over-reacted and fdisked the entire drive again so I could start from scratch and then installed everything again. Same thing when it came to the sound drivers, but this time I was a little smarter and I brought the machine up in Safe Mode and deleted anything referring to sound. I then reinstalled and the same thing. GPF and a locked system. Brought the system back up safe mode and started deleting sound items one at a time. This time the system loaded and I actually got sound. The cd rom even played sound through the motherboard so I thought I had it licked. I then courageously rebooted and the damn thing hung so I went to bed.

Came back to the system this AM and started over. Since now everything Windows booted it tried to install these sound pieces and then would still hang with a GPF I booted under dos floppy and formatted the C drive only and installed CD ROM again and then did yet another Windows 98 install.

I was almost thinking of running without sound, but while Win98 was installing I had the thought to check Micron's web site and see if they had the Crystal Sound Drivers and just maybe these sound drivers were specific to the bios update.

Finished installing win 98 and then installed the network and then sucked over the 7 meg file of the crystal audio version I had gotten from Micron and lo and behold it installed without any glitches and we have sound.

The office looks like a real computer room now.

Fred and Barney are the NT machines running the NT domain and are located on the wooden desk against the wall. Bambam (166) has its rightful place still with the huge monitor in the corner. At some point I want to move the new machine there (it took Fred's place on the small desk beside the color ink jet..Wilma) and with its large block of memory and faster operating speed should suit well for scanning and photo manipulation, etc. That will come another day. I plan to take the tape drive out of old Betty and put in one of these machine so I can get back to tape back ups. Currently I am keeping a copy of my data directory on several machines. I can install anything else from CD.

That's interesting. What I gather from your experience is that Micron does more to modify the BIOS than just putting their logo it. That also reemphasizes what I tell people over and over about flashing a BIOS--make absolutely sure that the new BIOS is intended to update _exactly_ the BIOS you have now.

I violated that rule myself once back when Flash BIOSs first came out. The old BIOS had a 12 or 15 character identifying string. The new BIOS I planned to install specified that it was to be used only to upgrade a particular version, which exactly matched what I had, except that one of the letters in the string was a different case.

I installed the flash upgrade, which killed the machine. When I called tech support for the vendor, who shall remain nameless, the tech weenie told me something like, "No, no, no. The flash upgrade you have is for the <big long meaningless string with an embedded upper-case F> BIOS, not for the <big long meaningless string with an embedded lower-case f>  BIOS." I said something like, "do you mean to tell me that an upper-case versus lower-case "f" buried in the middle of otherwise identical strings indicates two completely different BIOSs that are so incompatible that attempting to patch one with the other's patch file kills it completely?" He responded something like, "well, obviously so, or you wouldn't be talking to me. Duh." Needless to say, I don't buy computers from that vendor any more.

* * * * *

And the following from Dave Farquhar:

... I just read what you said about Navigator vs. Internet Explorer though. I've used the Netscape 4.x series almost exclusively since its release and have liked it. I had problems with some of the earlier revisions (crashing, etc.) but the newer ones are pretty stable. Seems to me 4.07 was fine. I have no problems with 4.08, which I think is the current version of that series.

I've also used Communicator 4.5x pretty extensively. It's nice, but it's a heavy download, and I'm not sure it's any more stable than 4.08. I know it has some extra features, but when I went back to Navigator standalone v4.08, I found I didn't miss any of them. I like Navigator 4.08's smaller footprint better than I like Communicator's added features.

The pre-alpha builds of what will become Navigator/Communicator 5.0 are lightning fast (faster than even Opera), but the stability still leaves a lot to be desired. It's pre-alpha, after all. You'll probably want to get Navigator 4.08. It's more stable, and it might even be a little bit faster.

Thanks. Bo Leuf also sent me the url for an article about Gecko/Navigator 5. After reading it, I'm looking forward to giving it a try.

* * * * *

And the following from Ric Locke:

The book your correspondent is talking about is "If the South had Won the Civil War." I don't remember the author's name, although something in the backbrain is trying to say "McKinley Cantor." (Or possibly Kantor.) I have a paperback of it around the house somewhere. (Everything has to be somewhere. It's a law of nature.) It was published sometime in the Sixties--at least my copy was.

Harry Turtledove's book is new. The two are quite different; I can say that with confidence even though I haven't seen Turtledove's, since your correspondent is quite correct (actually, rather generous) in calling the earlier one "sappy," and Turtledove is never that.

Thanks. I'll pass that along.

* * * * *

And this from Chuck Waggoner:

You are right: it's amusing to see all the hubbub over power saving.

I don't want to advocate wasting energy, but from my career in television (I'm in creative, not technical) one thing Engineering NEVER does is shut down TV monitors. And when they do shut down a control room full of monitors for maintenance or rewiring, it never fails that from one to several won't come back up. Think what it would be like if they shut them down every day.

Back in the days of tube televisions, more than a few of the engineering types I worked with, left their TV sets at home running 24 hours a day. That might be extreme for TVs today, but frankly, that's what I do with my current computer monitor, which began giving me problems about a year ago on power up. It's been on continuously ever since, and I don't want to know what would happen if I again started shutting it off regularly.

When I was a small kid, I once thought it amusing to flip the lights repeatedly on and off from the wall switch. My dad, who worked in automotive engineering at the time, informed me that there were only so many operations that switch would endure before ultimately failing. I'm quite sure that the number of successful on/off operations for TV/computer monitors is a whole lot fewer than for that wall switch, whether triggered by hand or by power savers.

When I tell non-technical friends to always leave their computers and monitors turned on, they're usually surprised. Then I tell them to remember the last several times they had to change a burned out light bulb. I ask them, "did any of those light bulbs burn out when they were just sitting there illuminated, or did all of them burn out when you switched them on?" Almost without exception, they answer the latter, and I tell them to think of their PCs and monitors as a very expensive light bulb. I run all of my systems 24X7, and recommend that everyone do the same.

* * * * *

And now I'd better get back to work on my year-end stuff. Happy New Year.

 


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Friday, January 1, 1999

I put three new images up on my images page. These were shot Christmas day on regular 35mm color print film. Barbara had them do a Kodak Picture Disk, not to be confused with a Photo-CD. The Picture Disk costs about $5 and is well worth it to avoid scanning hassles. They deliver all images on one or more floppies. The images are 800X600X256 and are just drop-ins for a web page. If you don't have a scanner or a digital camera, this is one good way to get photos up on your web page.

* * * * *

And the following from Tim Werth:

I agree with your opinion of leaving CRT monitors on 24x7 but from what I've read about LCD screens I think the opposite would be the best advice. If I remember correctly LCD monitors have an approximate number of hours of useful life, after that number of hours is used up you go buy another monitor. So as technology changes we have to adapt our habits accordingly. Anyway, have a happy new year.

Good point, and one I hadn't thought about.

* * * * *

And this from Ric Locke:

Incidentally, if you enjoyed the Turtledove, you might want to look up a couple of earlier ones. "How Few Remain" is one of them; "The Guns of the South" is another; and dammit, I can't think of the title of the third...and the Barnes&Noble I went to today didn't have it to refresh my memory.

How Few Remain is about the events leading up to the _second_ War Between the States--the South having won the first one. The second one is a time machine story; some 21st Century white supremacists build a time machine and propose to deliver some M16s and the like to Mr. Lee and his friends. The third is also a time machine story; the Time Police need to send an agent to mooch around the Civil War, and the fellow they send is black. There's a reason for that...

History is written by the winners, and the constant barrage of propaganda has pretty well reduced the Civil War to a Crusade against Slavery (on the part of the North) against the Villainous Slavers of the South. Mr. Turtledove is one of the few authors I've encountered who is even willing to concede that there might be something else to the story. My ancestors were villains, right enough--but the white supremacists of The Guns of the South are a little surprised by the way the real Confederates think about that sort of thing. This I think is part of what Turtledove is on about.

The book I recommended, The Great War: American Front, is actually a sequel to How Few Remain, (available from Amazon in hardback and paperback) which I haven't read yet. Right now, I'm reading The Guns of the South: A Novel of the Civil War (available from Amazon in trade paperback and mass market paperback). There are substantial differences between these books. The first is straight alternative history, while the second has time travel as a science-fiction element.

And you're right that the winners write the history books. Months ago, during private correspondence with Pournelle, I started a sentence, "Abraham Lincoln, of evil memory, ..." He responded, "You _are_ a Southern boy ..." Actually, I'm not. I was born in Pennsylvania, and didn't move south until I was in my late 20's. But even growing up in the North, I learned in history classes that the American Civil War was the Second American Revolution, that it was fought over States' Rights, and that the abolition of slavery was a secondary issue, at best.

Northerners fought to preserve the Union. Southerners fought to defend the Confederacy. None of them fought about slaves. The Northerners, generally, didn't care much about slavery, and only a miniscule percentage of those who fought for the South owned slaves. Lincoln didn't get around to freeing the slaves until he issued the Emancipation Proclamation halfway through the war, and even then he freed slaves only in the Southern states--those over which he had no control. The slaves in the Border states, where he did have control, remained slaves.

The irony is that if the South had won the Civil War we'd all have been better off. We would have returned to a loose confederation of independent states, as the Founding Fathers intended the United States to be. I think it's likely that the USA and CSA would have eventually re-joined, with the understanding that the federal government would remain a very weak central co-ordinating authority, rather than the 900-pound gorilla that it has since become. We would almost certainly not have become entangled in World War Part I, which means that the Allies and the Central Powers would have settled based on mutual exhaustion, and no World War Part II would have ensued. The Soviet Union would probably never have been born, and none of us would be worried about nuclear weapons, because there probably wouldn't be any.

And the slaves would have been better off, too. Disregarding the moral and ethical aspects, slavery is the least effective and efficient econonic system possible. An economy based on slavery cannot compete with one based on free men working in their own self-interest. At the time of the Civil War, the foundations of slavery were beginning to crumble, not just in the American South, but all over the world. Most countries were abolishing slavery, not from any finer moral sense, but simply in belated recognition of the fact that it doesn't work. The South lost the Civil War because it depended on slaves. This meant that it remained a primarily agricultural based economy long after it would otherwise have begun to industrialize. If the South had won the Civil War, or if the Civil War had never been fought, slavery would have collapsed of its own weight, and sooner rather than later.

So, yes, the Civil War was a disaster for all of us, Northerners and Southerners, black and white, free and slave.

* * * * *

And this from Bo Leuf:

Just thought I'd pass along the following (true) anecdote apropos monitors and tv sets, related to me by my father...

A number of years ago, a friend of his bought one of these then new tv sets with a so-called "green" standby mode (instead of "power-off") and "instant-on" feature. It was a large, rather expensive thing, but he was, as non-techies and tyro-techies often are, immensely proud of this "green-logo'd" power-saving device and could quote at length much of the hype and figures. In fact, whenever anyone at all visited, he'd show it off, and demonstrate the "turn-off"-and-instant-on via his remote. Of course, one day when he did that for the umpteenth time, the set blew from the repeated stress. Some people do learn from their mistakes, however...

A related issue concerning so-called "standby" modes. Some domestic fires in this country have been traced to monitor and tv-set standby modes. These days, almost nobody actually _turns off_ their sets anymore -- they use the remotes and you see the ubiquitous red LED indicating a sort-of-powered-down standby. In fact some sets don't even have proper mechanical power switches at all. Part of the internal circuitry is of course still live to drive the remote sensor and activation circuitry. The set is therefore still sensitive to line transients and to some extent overheating should their air vents be completely covered while "off" (especially true of video machines in poorly ventilated shelves/cabinets). It has been remarked on by safety experts that people are lulled into a false sense of security by this illusion of being "turned-off", and will do things they would otherwise not attempt to do to "live" equipment. Older people in Europe also have this disturbing habit of treating a "turned-off" tv, and sometimes monitor, as just another piece of furniture to put a small tablecloth on and various ornaments, even candles...

(Side issue. I had to work with PowerMacs one year, and I really hated the lack of proper power-off on the model I used. Whenever the system hung good and proper and no longer responded to the "reset", happened at least several times a week, one had to reach back behind the box and yank out the power plug. In that office corridor, you would repeated hear "tada" startups all day long...)

Power management can be used intelligently however; it all depends on the equipment and how it's used. For example, I have a smallish legacy system that runs as fidonet-mailer (used to be BBS) and receive fax. It has an active time of perhaps 5 minutes per day, mostly from the scheduled network mail polls, plus whatever time I sit down and check what has come in (not always daily). For a system like that it makes sense to run full spin-down and standby; if nothing else because then I have a totally silent system when idle. I did figure on power consumption, and even with on the order of 99% savings, it still only amounts to as you have noted a lightbulb's worth which is insignificant from the individual's point of view.

If I seriously ran desktop and networks at home, they would be "silenced" in various ways, but would most likely run 24/7. Possibly the monitors would be "turned-off" overnight, or when a given system is expected to be idle a long time, but this mostly due to the noticeable degradation of air quality indoors from these. Of course, I would prefer (LCD) flat screens in any case :)

Thanks for telling me something I hadn't thought about. The one counter-argument I'd heard to leaving things running 24X7 was the possibility that they would catch fire. I'd always conceded that possibility, making the assumption that stand-by or sleep mode indeed eliminated the fire hazard. My answer to that was always that although the possibility existed, it was vanishingly small. After all, I happily leave the house with dozens of computers, TVs, and other components connected to the power and either running or in stand-by mode, with never a thought that things won't still be standing when I return home. So your point is well-taken. Simply putting things into standby or sleep mode is no guarantee that some tiny percentage of them won't burst into flame spontaneously. Short of unplugging everything every time one leaves the house, that just a possibility we all have to live with.

 

 


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Saturday, January 2, 1999

It's tough to get any work done over the holidays. Barbara has started her annual deep clean of the house, stripping things down to bare walls and cleaning room by room. I try to stay out of the way during this process, so I'll take more time than I otherwise might to respond to a couple of interesting letters. Come this Monday, I'll be back to doing heads-down work on the book.

And the Weather Channel tells me that we have the worse possible combination of weather events coming up. An ice storm starting this afternoon followed by high winds tomorrow. That combination usually results in widespread power outages around here, as frozen tree limbs end up being blown loose and taking out power wires. The last time that happened, we ended up without power for four days, and a lot of people had no power for a couple of weeks. So there may not be any update here tomorrow, depending on what happens.

* * * * *

And the following from AL Campbell:

Hey RBT what's going on. I'm AL. I live in Tustin Southern California. I'm at your web page now, and I got there after having done a search for "bombs". Don't ask. lol. Anyhow the page caught my attention because you seem to be living the kind of life I want to live. You know, work at home, consult, be surrounded by all my computer stuff. My main interest are computers. Hardware and software. Programming etc. Also photography, Astronomy. and a host of other things, like auto repair, because I hate paying 500 dollars just to get new brakes for my car. I work for a computer company. They make touch screen computers for the POS industry. Point of sale. I work in the return repair section. Its not a bad job , I've been there for two years doing the same thing and not making much money. Technicians get no respect. All my life, all I've ever wanted to do was play with electronics and mechanical stuff. But now I cant seem to make a decent living doing that. I guess the thing to do is break out on my own. Anyhow let me give you some demographics and feedback on the web page, so that you can get a little bit of a feel for your target audience for your books. I'm 41 year old , black male. ex u.s marine aircraft mechanic. As for the web page everything seems fine. I tried to get one of the pictures. But could not. I left clicked on the picture as usual but did not get the usual menu to save the picture to a folder. I got another shorter menu and chose copy but I guess it went to the clipboard and was unable to retrieve it. I started a web page at Xoom.com myself, but I don't have anything up yet. Too lazy I guess. Well don't want to keep you from your work, so goodbye and have a nice day. Good luck with the writing and consulting. AL Campbell cyberhog@email.msn.com

Well, if you really want to do something like what I'm doing, there is a secret. Just do it. That's all. It's a simple secret, but one that most people never discover.

I don't necessarily mean you should write computer books, but if what you want is to be self-employed and working at home, the secret is just to get started on it. It's easy to want to do it, to think about doing it, to plan to do it, etc. But that doesn't count for anything. What counts is actually doing it. An old Chinese proverb says that the longest journey begins with a single step, but most people who dream about being out on their own never take that first step.

My wife just took the big step after working for the Forsyth County Library for twenty years. All her friends and co-workers had a going-away party for her, which I attended. Almost without exception, they told me that they really wanted to do the same thing, but didn't have the nerve to do it. A typical comment was something like, "I have a good idea for a business that I could start, but I have two small kids and need the benefits this job provides, so now is not a good time."

Well, there is _never_ a good time to do anything. It's easy to come up with reasons not to do things. If people waited for a good time to have children, the race would die out. As Kipling said, "the cowards never started, and the weaklings died along the way." When it comes to starting their own businesses, most people are cowards. They focus on the negatives, and never do end up getting started.

And, no, I don't mean you should quit your current job and risk everything on one roll of the dice. Move forward gradually, if necessary, but always move forward. As it happens, I quit my day job before I had a viable business in place. I could do that because my wife's salary paid our bills, and her health insurance covered us both. That gave me a precious opportunity to develop my business without worrying about making it pay instantly. Now, after a couple of years, I'm an established author, and I can return the favor. Barbara is going to start her own business, and I'll carry her for a while.

And if you don't happen to have that advantage, don't assume you can't start your own business. Many people start their own businesses on a part-time basis, working evenings and weekends to establish it while they continue to work their day jobs. For some, this process lasts a long time, and may even be permanent. Others are surprised to find just how quickly they can build up a business and go full-time with it. There's a demand for competence in any field. If you do a good job, treat customers fairly, charge reasonable rates, and ask sastisfied customers to tell other people about you, you may soon find you have more business than you can handle. The trick is to decide what you want to do and can do well, and then do it.

And that brings up another issue. Flexibility. What you start out to be isn't always what you end up becoming. I started out intending to be a computer consultant. Then I got an opportunity to write a computer book, and grabbed it. I decided I liked writing better than consulting, so here I am writing full time. Never close any doors that open to you. If you decide to start your own PC repair business, for example, you might have a customer ask you if you can build a web site for them. If that's something you want to learn to do, give it a shot. Tell them up-front that you're not a web guru but that it's something you wanted to learn to do anyway. You can't charge them for your learning time, but you can use that project as a jumping off point.

And be careful with the bombs. I note in the morning paper that some poor guy who was making and selling cherry bombs to his co-workers has been jailed with a $1,000,000 bond. Cherry bombs. After Oklahoma City, the government has even less tolerance for explosives than they used to, and that wasn't much...

* * * * *

And the following from Jack McNeary:

Just a note to tell you your personal information has been helpful to me. I put in the word generac to see what I could find out about the generator. Your site was the only thing that came up. Actually I searched for two words. ... Generac 5500xl.

I have been pricing generators for my home and office both. We have had some ice this year that has knocked out the power at both places for about a day.

Also I am concerned about y2k and have come to the conclusion that we all should be prepared for normal disruptions in our lives and most of us do not have enough basics around to remain comfortable. Anyway your discussion of the generac is helpful so thanks.

I acquired a useful book (38 pages) called solar electric design guide which goes into a lot of detail about how to hook up generators, solar stuff etc. I got it through Westergaard.com some time ago. If you want more specifics on it let me know.

You're welcome. I had the same problem when I tried to find information on the Generac generators. I did find the Generac web page, but it's a strong contender for my Clueless Web Site of the Year award. If you click More Information from the home page, they display a page that lists the type of equipment they make (generators, power washers, etc.). They ask you to _vote_ on which products they should display more information about. Duh. Kind of like a newspaper publishing a blank edition and asking readers whether they should clutter up those nice white pages with ink in the next edition. Since they already have a web page, how hard would it have been to post the spec sheets for their products?

And you're right about Y2K. I'm not one of the doomsayers, but I do expect quite a few places to lose electrical power as a result of Y2K glitches. There's an article in the current Scientific American that lists best-case, expected, and worst-case scenarios for utility problems. They say 5% of households losing power for periods of up to a month is best-case. As I recall, they had something like 15% as expected, and 75% as worst-case. Those numbers are big enough (and the expected duration of outages is long enough) to make buying a generator good insurance, particularly since Y2K hits right when a lot of people have snow outside their windows. And I wouldn't want to be one of the folks standing in line to buy a generator right before the big event.

My friend John Mikol tells me that he gets about 8 hours from a 5-gallon tank when his 5 KW generator is running at about half load. I'm going to assume that as a working figure, and plan to be able to run mine for 4 hours per day for a month--enough to keep the furnace running and the freezers frozen. That translates into about 75 gallons of gasoline. I have a 20-gallon metal container that I'll fill late next fall, which takes me down to 55 gallons required. We'll also fill both our trucks' tanks, which hold 22.5 gallons each, or 45 gallons. Leaving 5 gallons or so of that for mobility, that means I need to store about 15 gallons in regular gas cans. We have two 6-gallon cans now, so I'll probably pick up two or four more.

Then, of course, there will be neighbors and friends who don't have generators, so I expect those of us that do will be hosting others in our homes. Those others will also have cars with gasoline in the tanks, so fueling the generators for long periods may be less of a problem than some expect. I suspect that in the areas that do experience long-term power outages, there'll be some month-long house parties going on.

Although I don't expect catastrophic problems from Y2K glitches, one thing that does worry me is the food supply. Most people don't realize that the average metropolitan area has only a 2- to 3-day supply of food in grocery stores and warehouses. Obviously, most people have at least several additional days' worth stored at home, but major dislocations in food delivery could cause some real problems, so I'll plan to have quite a bit of stored food on hand. Water, too. Municipal water plants depend on electrical power for pumping. All of them have backup generators, but how many days' fuel they have for them varies widely.

So, being prepared sounds reasonable. If the power outages never materialize, you may feel somewhat an idiot for being all dressed up with nowhere to go. If they do, you'll be glad you prepared for them.

* * * * *

And the following from Ric Locke. It's pretty long, so I'm posting with embedded comments rather than trying to put all of my remarks at the end:

"(E)ven growing up in the North, I learned in history classes that the American Civil War was the Second American Revolution, that it was fought over States' Rights, and that the abolition of slavery was a secondary issue, at best."

Congratulations. You appear to be more or less a contemporary (I was born in 1948). If you have kids, you may know that there are very few places where that's taught in the schools now, and University academics are actively hostile toward the notion, even in most Southern universities.

"Northerners fought to preserve the Union. Southerners fought to defend the Confederacy..."

Well, no. I can't speak in much detail about Northerners, except to say that slavery was an important recruiting-poster factor. But Southerners regarded the Confederacy as, at BEST, a means to an end.

Of course they used it on recruiting posters. But again, slavery was not the major issue. Southerners were upset that the federal government was attacking their "peculiar institution", a subject that they believed was the business of the States and not of the federal government. People who owned no slaves fought, not to protect the institution of slavery, but to protect the right of their States to self-determination.

"Lincoln didn't get around to freeing the slaves until he issued the Emancipation Proclamation halfway through the war...(t)he slaves in the Border states, where he did have control, remained slaves."

Tell that to anybody under 30. Then take a picture, and use it to illustrate the concept of "incredulity."

If you really want to surprise them, tell them that on August 30, 1861 Fremont, the Union commanding general in Missouri, unilaterally issued a proclamation that emancipated all of the slaves in Rebel hands. That pissed Lincoln off, so he countermanded Fremont's proclamation by Executive Order, officially revoking the emancipation. Now, granted, Fremont was a rogue, and his proclamation included other points that made no sense. But still, Lincoln could have allowed the emancipation order to stand. 

"(I)f the South had won the Civil War...(w)e would have returned to a loose confederation of independent states..."

Not bloody likely. The USA had spent too much time and trouble advancing the notion of "Union Forever." It would have continued down the path that led to us; the CSA would have set up the "loose confederation" you describe, and as a consequence never would have amounted to much, industrially or economically. The standard of living in Atlanta today would be about like, say, Guadalajara; hosts of mainly broke people headed up by a few richies who're content to walk through dog manure so long as it's outside their own compound.

Umm, when I said "we", I meant the CSA would have returned to the Confederate form. Clearly, the North would most likely have kept the Federal form. But many Southerners, including those in positions of power, were concerned about the centralization of authority that occurred as a wartime exigency. So it's likely that the South would again have become a loose confederation. And I see no basis for your conclusions about the relative advantages and disadvantages of the Federal versus Confederate forms when it comes to industrialization and economics. In fact, I think the South would have industrialized more successfully under the Confederate form.

"(T)he USA and CSA would have eventually re-joined..."

Sure. Over lots of dead bodies. It's more like this: Act I would have been the Kaiser and the USA vs. France and Britain, with the CSA acting as a resupply depot for the Brits. The USA would have invaded the South to aid the Kaiser by denying resupply to the Allies, and hung on to the bits and pieces it got hold of. Canada would have invaded the USA to prevent that from happening. The Allies would have lost, and Act II would have been touched off, more or less on schedule, by British Fabianists protesting the terms of the Treaty of Dublin--and don't forget the Japanese. Today, Moscow would be German--and still an Empire!--and San Francisco and most of the northwest coast would be Japanese. The CSA--comprising Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas, plus the western part of Tennessee and Texas to the Trinity--would be about like, say, Haiti. And slavery would still be legal there.

Again, I disagree. I think the results would have been more like the eventual reunification of the Germanies. Slavery would have collapsed of its own weight. Slavery can exist in an agricultural economy, but industrial economies cannot compete successfully using slave labor. Witness the industrial productivity (or lack thereof) in the old Soviet Union.

"The Soviet Union would probably never have been born, and none of us would be worried about nuclear weapons, because there probably wouldn't be any."

Agreed. Western Russia would be part of the German Empire, and Siberia would be Japanese. Vladimir Ulyanov would be remembered, if at all, as a fairly incompetent administrator working for Berlin. Atomic weapons would be a theoretical possibility, but nobody would have had the economic base to build the first one for real.

Oh, the economic base would have been there, but the need would have been lacking. And I don't know that I'd make the assumptions that you have. There are too many cusp points, where a minor change could result in major differences.

"The South lost the Civil War because it depended on slaves. This meant that it remained a primarily agricultural based economy long after it would otherwise have begun to industrialize."

Agreed, except that you've got it backwards. The South wanted to industrialize; the problem was finding the capital. The North had enacted gigantic tariffs on imported machinery, and were charging them on coastwise trade; for a Southerner to buy a machine cost more if it came from Hartford than it did from Liverpool, and the tariffs--charged on both machines!--made both of them prohibitively expensive. With all its capital tied up in slaves, the South couldn't afford to industrialize at the prices the North was charging--exactly as intended.

The South started the war with the intent of becoming independent of the Northern bankers and industrialists. They wanted to set up a system that would allow them to import machinery, add value to their raw materials, and sell the resulting goods on the world market. Like you, I don't think industrialization and slavery are compatible; but it has nothing to do with the attitude of the workers or any other liberal virtues. Keep in mind that the Axis produced a huge portion of their war materiel using Jewish and Polish slave labor. It's a simple equation: which use of capital gives greatest return, slaves or machines? The machines win hands down.

No, I don't think I do have it backwards. Slaves were relatively cheap. In real terms, an average slave cost about as much as a decent automobile does today. And for the cost of that automobile (with minor continuing maintenance costs), the slave owner got labor from that slave for a period of many years. But he got labor on a human scale, and less efficient labor than he would have gotten by employing free laborers. The tragedy for the South and its slaves is that slavery seems Good Enough when examined superficially. But manual labor of any sort cannot compete with machinery, and the development of the harvester and similar equipment in the North would have quickly spelled the end of slavery in the South. Mechanization would have resulted in a rapid drop in the price of slaves. But before long, it would have become blindingly obvious that slave labor could not compete on any terms with mechanization, and the economic incentive to hold slaves would have disappeared.

As an aside, a persistent myth in my family is that one of my Mother's ancestors, a slaveowner living in Arkansas, participated in a semi-official congress in the late Fifties, trying to find some formula for "freeing the slaves." I have no real idea if the myth is true or not; I didn't hear it until the 1950s, it seems fairly self-serving, and none of the history I've studied includes any such meeting. If it did occur, then I strongly suspect that what they really wanted was to cash out of a losing investment and come out of it with enough capital to begin industrialization.

I don't doubt that at all. Many Southerners, including slaveholders, recognized that slavery was on its last legs, just as many Northerners supported the institution.

Northerners could not afford for the South to win, for exactly the same reason the Japanese wanted Manchuria: they had few or no natural resources, and if their manufacturing base didn't have access to cheap raw materials they'd be in a world of hurt. "Industry," in the context of those times, meant textiles; cotton was produced in the south, by slaves, but thread was spun and cloth woven in New England, with financing from New York, and the products sold by factors headquartered in Connecticut and Rhode Island. Col. Drake, whom you as a Pennsylvanian should remember, didn't "spud in" until '59, and the Mesabi Range hadn't been discovered yet! So the North's whole policy was bent toward (1) denying the South the chance to industrialize and (2) preventing foreigners, notably the British, from doing an end-around and getting access to the South's products for their own industry.

Actually, I think you'll find that the North was in much better shape in terms of exploitable natural resources than was the South. Most of the coal and metals mining took place in the North, and all of the accessible petroleum was located there. Water power was concentrated in New England, which is why New England was the manufacturing center. And although textiles were certainly a significant manufacture, much of that industrial capability was starting to shift to durable goods, including the machine tools and other infrastructure components needed to expand the manufacturing base.

This policy was actively pursued after the War, during the period called "Reconstruction." Say it with heavy irony, and spit; during that period the North, having destroyed the most of the South's capital stock by freeing the slaves, proceeded to either destroy or steal as much of what remained as was remotely portable, down to and including using the paltry bits of rolling stock available to rip up the rails of the railroads and ship them North for resale and/or reprocessing.

After Reconstruction, Southerners had literally nothing to live on but a few absolutely immovable featues of the landscape. When you're hungry, it's pretty easy to build a philosphy that allows you to take the lion's share (of very little) and leave the politically weak with collard greens. It was wrong, and I don't defend it; at the same time, I don't see how anyone could have expected any other result. There were many Southerners who didn't like the idea. My grandmother was such a liberal; she wouldn't tolerate the use of the "N-word" in her hearing--although her accent made the "polite" word come out "nigrah," which by modern PC is as bad or worse--and her stated philosophy was that "You ought to be kind to the nigrahs; they can't hep it that they can't hep themselves." I really don't know whether or not she'd have been gratified that her opinion had been codified into Federal law. I do know that if the Devil was running as a Democrat and Jesus as a Republican, she'd have had a heart attack trying to decide which lever to pull.

Even as a Southerner I can't regret losing the War. The late 1800s were a time of strong states and me-too imperialism, which a loose confederacy could never have stood up to. What I do regret, and what makes me angry to this day, is Reconstruction and the subsequent campaign of vilification. I don't regard Lincoln as a particular villain, although I have to chuckle at his beatification amongst the modern "liberals," and Turtledove's characterization of the man as a Marxist propagandist is almost funny in a too-true-to-laugh-at way. He was simply a weak-minded man with strong convictions, which made it trivially easy for folks to talk him into "solving problems" by shoving a gun into people's faces--a species which is common and widely distributed today. It's even possible that if Mr. Booth had aimed one ugly fellow to the left, Lincoln might have been able to take some of the edge off Reconstruction; his public statements indicate that his inclination would have been that way.

History is written by the winners, but one of the qualitative differences caused by the Industrial Revolution is that the truth becomes sort of like a deep-seated infection, that keeps popping up as boils and cold sores and general debilitation. Reconstruction made "Republican" more or less synonymous with "Fiend" in a third of the country for a century or so. That created a corps of Democratic Party politicians, mostly Southern, with great seniority and therefore great power. Those politicos started pushing for industrialization, to feather their own nests, and taxation, to level things out and provide a bigger pot to grab from. Now the mills of New England are handicraft boutiques, and the factories of the Rust Belt are EPA Superfund sites; Daimler-Benz builds a car factory in Alabama, and our next President may well be a Republican. From Texas.

"It's a funny old world."--Ly Tin Wheedle

I regret that the South lost the war because it accelerated the shift from the loosely confederated Republic that the Founding Fathers created to the dictatorial strong central Federal government that we have now. I firmly believe, as Washington said, "That government governs best which governs least." What we had was a republic. It has degenerated to a democracy, which is well on its way to empire. Some might argue that republics and democracies are meta-stable and that empire is the form that any government must take when equilibrium is reached. They may be right. I hope not.

 


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Sunday, January 3, 1999

Well, the ice storm arrived, but it didn't nail us too badly. We still have power, although Duke Power has something like 40,000 households in South Carolina that are without power. There are only a few isolated outages in the Winston-Salem area. Looking out at the world covered in ice, I'm glad that Barbara won't be having to go to work in it any more.

Barbara is continuing her deep cleaning of the house today, so it'll be hard to get much work done. Tomorrow, I'm back to working on the book.

* * * * *

And the following from Ric Locke:

Mr. Thompson & readers of your site,

Apologies for preceding ROT (Rant Off Topic). It's a character flaw I can't seem to control. Recommend you just set your mail filter properly. I do stand by what I said. Incidentally, I visit (lurk) your site primarily for Windows NT and networking hints. I know you make your living at that and don't give it away, but all pearls accidentally dropped are gratefully gathered.

Well, I certainly didn't see it as a rant, and I suspect few others did. As far as NT, I have two NT5/Windows 2000 books under contract, but they're on hold for the moment. Given that I think it's unlikely that Microsoft will actually ship W2K much before Y2K, and given that O'Reilly doesn't encourage its authors to write their books based on betas so as to be first to market, I probably won't be working much on those books before late this year.

But Windows NT is what I actually use, so you can be sure that there'll be a continuing series of comments, rants, and so forth about NT in the coming months. Basically, I really like NT most of the time, but hate it other times. It's like that little girl who, when she was good was very, very good, but when she was bad ...

As far as networking, expect the same. I'm not concerned with giving anything away here. This is, as it says at the top of the page, a personal journal. I write about what I feel like writing about at the moment I'm writing, so you'll see a mix of everything--technical stuff, product mini-reviews, polemic, commentary on current events, stuff that happens around the house, and a partridge in a pear tree.

* * * * *

And this from Gary M. Berg:

I've gotten about 3 really odd emails on my work account, which appear to conspire with Outlook 98 (and maybe Express) to display a web site as soon as the email is opened and/or previewed. In fact, my work account has one such message sitting in it right now which I've avoided reading since I'm still on vacation.

I've peeked at these emails, using my home computer with Java/VBScript disabled in MSIE to see these emails. They appear to be addressed to someone else, and I really haven't been able to spot how they even ended up in my account based on the routing notes.

I think they are non-dangerous as long as I don't let MSIE install any active content, but the first time I hit one and a copy of MSIE started up running in the background I nearly freaked!

Have you encountered any of these emails, or heard anything about them?

Do you want me to make any attempt to forward one? If I turn off Java/VBScript I can get the contents of the message, especially using a web site such as mailstart.com.

Sure, send me one and I'll take a look at it. I keep Autopreview turned on in Outlook 98, and I've never gotten an email that opened a web site when it was previewed. I do get quite a few junk emails, mostly from porn sites, that preview as raw HTML. Those I kill without opening them. Perhaps if I had opened one, it'd've loaded a web site automagically. But then I also keep both Navigator and IE configured minimally--Java and JavaScript turned off, active content disabled, etc.

* * * * *

And from Bo Leuf:

"...That translates into about 75 gallons of gasoline..."

Assuming a lot of people start stocking up in this way (and knowing how inept a lot of people prove to be in terms of minimizing fire hazards around highly inflammable/explosive materials like gasoline) that also translates into a growing and perhaps in due time alarming  risk for fire disasters. I know this was of recurring concern for fire departments whenever people started hamstering gasoline during various oil crisis, or price hikes known in advance.

Anyway, your idea of using existing tanks (the trucks) makes good sense, and I assume your other storage tanks are intended for gasoline and located in "safe" places.

Good points. I seem to recall that 1 cup of gasoline fully vaporized has the explosive potential of one stick of dynamite, so 75 gallons would equal 1,200 sticks. I keep mine safely stored, though, in old wine bottles plugged with rags. Someone told me that saturating the rags with potassium chlorate and keeping an inch or so of concentrated sulfuric acid in the bottom of each bottle would aid stability.

Only kidding. Doing that would be making Molotov Cocktails, and that would be illegal. Actually, the bulk of the gasoline will be in the Isuzu Troopers' gas tanks and in a Vietnam-era military surplus cannon powder cannister I have. It weighs about 50 pounds empty, and has a very secure lid with a gasoline-resistant O-ring seal. The remainder is stored in big, red Rubbermaid jerry-cans that are explicitly intended for storing gasoline.

 



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 them eventually.

 

 

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