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Daynotes Journal

Week of 1/25/99

Friday, July 05, 2002 08:12

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, January 25, 1999

No book of the week this week.

I've gotten a few mail messages recently that ask why I don't publish the email addresses of people who send me mail. I'd not been doing it in the past simply as a privacy measure. However, I notice that others who publish reader mail publish the addresses of the people whose messages are posted. As a couple of people have pointed out to me, it comes in handy to have the email address if you want to respond to that person privately. So, I'm going to start publishing the addresses with the messages. If you don't want your email address published with your message, please tell me so at the top of the message. I'm changing policy with no notice, so if anyone is upset that his mail address appears, please let me know. I'll go back and remove it immediately.

* * * * *

The following from Tom Bledsaw [tbledsaw@worldnet.att.net]

I've been visiting your site for several months now...keep up the good work. The reason I'm writing is to list a couple of experiences I've had with USB. I have concluded that it is not quite ready for prime time. To begin I recently purchased a Gateway 400MHz with two USB ports. The keyboard that came with the system is not one that I particularly liked..so I purchased a Microsoft Natural Keyboard that came with either a PS/2 connector or a USB. I thought I might as well try the USB and promptly connected it. Everything installed perfectly, the system found the keyboard and all was well with the world, until I decided to boot to the OS prompt, (by the way the system has Win 98) that's right NO KEYBOARD.

My next foray began with not being quite satisfied with the integrated sound card on the gateway motherboard. I decided to try USB speakers (Microsoft Digital Sound System 80), these are suppose to eliminated the need for a sound card by keeping the sound as a digital signal until it reaches the speakers. Little did I know that in order for this to work you need to have a CD-ROM that supports digital data extraction. (which it seems that no DVD drive yet supports)So I than decided that I could stream the audio to my hard drive and play it that way. Alas the computer won't even boot with the speakers connected to the USB port. If I boot first, than connect the speakers, everything works great.

All is not lost however, the keyboard works great on the PS/2 port, and the speakers sound pretty good coming through the sound card.

Thanks for the kind words. I agree with you that USB is not quite ready for prime time, although I think that's changing fast. The problem with the USB keyboard not being recognized occurs because you are supporting USB via Win98 drivers. Depending on your BIOS, you may be able to avoid this problem. Some BIOSs have a "Enable Boot-time USB Keyboard Support" option. If your BIOS has that option and you enable it, the BIOS recognizes USB keyboards natively. As far as USB sound, I've not experimented with it yet, but your experiences are similar to those of others I've talked to. Again, not quite here yet...

* * * * *

And the following on CD-R from Tom Syroid [tsyroid@home.com]:

I finally had a chance to catch up on your pages last night, and as an addendum to our banter (thanks for your efforts with the FTP thing) I'd like to throw my two-bits worth into the fray of CD-R options.

I don't (yet) have a CD-R, but it is very high on my priority list too -- perhaps why I've followed this discussion so closely. But I have had a SCSI CD-ROM installed for over 5 years, and it is only now I realize the benefits to the technology I chose without thought so long ago. When I installed it almost all CD-ROMs were SCSI by default; IDE choices were not on the market yet. My drive is an NEC 4X (yes, that's right, just 4 times) and it has served me faithfully and without error since the day I installed it. The SCSI adapter is an Adaptec 1530 and it has been automatically recognized by every operating system I have run on this machine (Win3.1, WFWG, NT3.1, NT3.5, NT4, Win95, Win98). From my experience, SCSI is not a problem providing you buy a mainstream, quality adapter -- in this day and age, the drivers will keep themselves current through your OS.

As I said, I plan to buy a CD-R (RSN) and it will undoubtedly be a SCSI, for several reasons:

1. I can plug it into my existing chain, and it will be recognized without any fanfare or detailed reconfiguration (providing I pay attention to termination).

2. SCSI is FAST relative to IDE. My old 4X SCSI NEC drive runs circles around the 2nd IDE CD-ROM I have on my system (8X). Despite its age, it is my drive of choice -- even at it's 4X speed -- when I want performance and reliability.

3. As has been pointed out in your reader's comments, SCSI devices do not waffle or squirm when asked to multitask. Let's not forget that the OS both you and I use for our daily tasks is NT, and NT was designed as a multitasking OS and coded by SCSI fanatics. It is optimized for and an integral part the OS and anything SCSI (providing your adapter is on MSís NT compatibility list) will FLY compared to a similar IDE product on NT.

4. Given the problems of buffer overruns talked about so frequently in your reader's reply's, logically thinking, there is no better solution to this than a SCSI product -- this is what they were designed for. If you want high throughput from a HD, what do you recommend? If you want reliability with heavy use, what do you recommend? Yes, IDE is a viable option now in HDDs (although I'm still kicking the cat around on this regarding my next system...) but the edge IDE products have in price is not always offset (HDDs aside) in reliability and performance when compared to SCSI.

Go for it. Make it an adventure. Install a SCSI drive and they'll be a TON of us to call on for help if you need it (which I truly doubt). My read? Buy a SCSI. You'll then have to face the dilemma, like me, of what the interface of your next hard drive will be...

All good points, and I'm still thinking about it. I'll compare prices for ATAPI and SCSI CD-R drives. If the SCSI is within reason, I may go for it. I won't hold the cost of the SCSI card that I'll also need to buy against the CD-R drive, although I probably should. I don't think I'll have any problem deciding about the interface of my next hard drive, though. It'll be ATA no matter what kind of CD-R drive I get.

* * * * *

This from Chuck Waggoner [waggoner@gis.net]:

I had an interesting lunch today with a college friend I had not seen in about 25 years. He is in the business of supporting large scale accounting operations (networks of 200 users and up) which employ a mix of Unix and NT.

Fifteen years ago, he was a Unix programmer, and he readily admits that he (and many others in the Unix realm) completely misjudged Microsoft's entrance with DOS, and later Windows. The reason he offered for his own error in judgment was that he overlooked cost. The DOS operating system was inexpensive in those early days, and allowed companies to implement lower cost computing in places where they had not done so before--even though it was less sophisticated than the Unix implementations they may have been used to.

Time moved on, and although the DOS and Windows OS and programs became more refined and more pervasive, the price of Microsoft computing increased, especially with NT.

Now, he says, the companies he deals with are looking at either new implementations they wish to install, or upgrades to their current systems. And what's on the horizon? significant expense just for NT upgrades (let alone new large scale installations), OR inexpensive Linux.

Recently, he had to come up with a test environment of 80 computers, and you get only one guess as to what he used as the OS on them all. The experiments wouldn't even have been financially feasible with MS operating systems if used legally. Moreover, the companies he works with, consider currently available basic applications for Linux to be 'good enough', and his custom Unix programs have already been conformed to work on Linux.

Although I pressed him, he didn't want to predict the future, because he was so wrong before; but the present looks to him like the past: the Linux-Unix is now the low-cost alternative, and Microsoft no longer is. And many of his IT buddies are saying, "Microsoft is too big and entrenched to be knocked off"--just like they were saying about Unix when that upstart Microsoft came along.

That is interesting. Conventional wisdom says that Linux is a developing threat to Windows NT in server space, but does not threaten Microsoft's hegemony in client space. I'm not sure the latter is true, particularly for the many clients that are not used for general purpose office productivity applications. It'll be interesting to see what happens in the next year or so. Around then, Microsoft will be releasing W2K, and Linux should have evolved quite a bit towards being a reasonable client platform. OSS is the biggest threat that Microsoft has ever faced. It may make their troubles with the Justice Department pale into insignificance.

* * * * *

This from Jerry Mah [jerry-mah@home.com]:

Just thought I'd shoot personalised e-mail to you on the current discussion.

I don't know if you're sick of all the information on CD-burners, but here's some more:

Regarding CD-R, if you check out the newsgroups you'll find that everyone and their dog recommends the CD burner that they own. Having used a few, and owned one, I can honestly say that pretty well anything recent will do a pretty good job. One of the tricks to burning a CD from what I've seen is that you've got to have a machine with enough oomph to burn a CD and do something else at the same time. While multitasking is fine, but if you want a coasterless burn consistently, why not just leave that machine alone?

I purchased a SCSI recorder on those rare occasions where I thought that I might have to use that machine while having to burn a copy of something. High cpu usage being a culprit in buffer underruns. SCSI seems to ease the pain away...

I was using a old IDE Mitsumi 4x CD-Rom as my reader, burning up to 4x with a Panasonic 7502-B (SCSI) with absolutely no problems (no coasters). This was a test&copy using ez-cd creator 3.5a. There are lots of people that tell you that you need a faster reader than what you are burning at, however from my experience that wasn't the case. I only recently upgraded to a 36x cd-rom for my reader because I wanted to experiment with DAE (digital audio extraction). So far I've been coasterless following these steps.

One of the big things that people don't tell you when you buy these things is that all blanks are not created equally. Up in Canada we just got dinged with a ridiculous tax that increased blank prices, so pretty well everywhere you go, there isn't a CD-R blank available unless you want to pay $4/cd. Before this tax went into place, I ended up purchasing a bunch of Maxell CD-Rs. They've worked fine for all, but one of my machines. I've found that CD-Rs are pretty tempermental with which CD-Rom drives you use them with. Using a Samsung blank I just purchased a few days ago, I found that this one drive worked 100% with this brand of blank. However all my readers other than the 36x, will not work with this copy. What you need to do is find a blank that works with all your drives. Many people recommend the "gold" Mitsui as a disc that does all. I've only been able to find "blues" in any quantity. I also recommend that you go for the big names in media, they tend to be pretty reliable.

Regarding the SCSI discussion:
It's not completely true that SCSI should be a server based product. There are numerous motherboards on the market that cost a little more with the scsi adapter built onboard, as opposed to purchasing a motherboard and an adapter separately.

All the ASUS products that I have ever looked at have the symbios scsi bios as a part of the bios. I know that this is just one motherboard company, however it shows that you can get motherboards out there that do have the scsi bios built in.

SCSI a few years back was still fairly prevalent, costing $50 to $100 more than the IDE equivalent. It however still seems popular with with a few things: Iomega Jaz, scanners, CD-reader/burners.

One well known low cost way of getting a decent scsi adapter is to go get an Iomega Jaz Jet, it's either a rebaged buslogic or a rebaged adaptec 2940. It's not a high end adapter, SCSI II-F, but it's not bad. I'm currently using a NCR (or symbios 810), that is boot supported by the ASUS boards. There's also Diamond's scsi adapters, also based on the symbios line of chipsets.

Anything that I've owned has basically just plugged in and worked in terms of scsi. Once you've got the scsi adapter driver loaded, what else is there? Win95 and NT both know SCSI, and have never failed to pick up either my adaptecs or symbios 810 adapters. The only thing I worry about is a TWAIN driver for scanners...

just my 2 cents.

Thanks. Actually, there are some common threads developing in the CD-R discussion: (a) anything recent seems to work, (b) SCSI is better than IDE, but IDE works if you're careful, (c) use the Adaptec software, and (d) all blanks are not created equal. And you're right that SCSI is still widely used. My point was not so much that SCSI is dead as that it's a dead-end technology for clients.

* * * * *

And now I'd better get to work. I have bills to pay, a chapter to send off to O'Reilly, another chapter to get started, and my handyman friend showing up to replace the ballasts in the fluorescents in the basement kitchen.

* * * * *

On Friday, Gary M. Berg mailed me to ask if there were problems with the Diskeeper defragger and Windows NT SP4. I installed Diskeeper Lite on the only machine I have running SP4, and, sure enough, it wouldn't work. I mailed my primary contact at Executive Software, and he asked me to submit a detailed report of the situation to one of their tech support folks. I sent that late on Friday, and received the following response this morning from Lance Jensen of Executive Software Tech Support:

This is rather disturbing. I don't think it's related to SP4. I have just finished loading and running DKLite on an SP4 machine, with no difficulties at all, and we have many sites running Diskeeper 4.0 under SP4 with no problems.

The behavior you describe is what I would expect if you tried to run Diskeeper from an account that was not a member of the local Administrator group. Diskeeper would not be able to see any partitions that had any security restrictions on them. Please do load Diskeeper 4.0 (or reload DKLite). If it doesn't work perfectly, give us a call, 800-829-4357, and ask for Tech Support.

So, I did as Lance suggested, and reinstalled DKLite. It's defragging the drive as I write this. I'm not sure what happened. When I installed DKLite the first time, I was logged on (as usual) to my main account, which has full administrative privileges. That's a horrible practice, and one I caution others to avoid, but truth in journalism means I have to admit to doing it myself.

I started to re-install DKLite without removing the original installation. DKLite Setup blew up with a file copy error, saying that the program Control.exe could't be deleted. I stopped the install and used NT Explorer to delete the entire D:\Program Files\DKLite folder, where I'd originally installed the program. Explorer refused to delete the folder, giving me an access denied error. I went in and found Control.exe was the file causing the problem. I took ownership of it and tried to delete it again. No joy. I finally fired up Task Manager. Sure enough, Control.exe was on the processes list. I killed that process and was then able to delete Control.exe and the folder itself. I then re-installed DKLite, and it is now defragging the drive normally. It seems that it was just a coincidence that I had this problem on an SP4 machine immediately after getting mail from Gary that asked if Diskeeper had problems with SP4.

At any rate, there is no problem with Diskeeper Lite and NT SP4. Just to make sure, I just installed and ran Diskeeper 4.0 (the full commercial version) on bastet. It also works fine.

* * * * *

Late Afternoon: I've spent the day working on the new chapter, and have gotten a fair amount done.

* * * * *

This from Randy Moreau [rmoreau@4dnet.com]:

I was reading your web page and found it very useful. Especially the info on modems. Do you use, or is there a difference between internal (ISA, PCI) or external (serial) modem speeds? Which is faster? Also, Ive been reading alot of sales copy that states a difference between controller based, controller-less, and onboard control technology for modems. I want to buy a new modem, and I am looking for as much speed and reliability without going to ISDN (too expensive) or Cable modem (still hi, but better). I think I want to stay with POTS service for now.

Thank you for your time,

I've been using modems heavily since the early 1980's, and I use external modems exclusively. I've had a few internals over the years, but I've always regretted buying them. In theory, an internal modem may be a bit faster (because it has a direct bus connection rather than being limited to the 115.2 kbps of a standard serial port) but in practice there's no discernable difference in speed. The controller/controllerless issue arises because some internal modems are designed to save a few bucks by using the PC processor rather than having a dedicated processor of their own. Steer clear of these, which are usually described as a "Winmodem" or something similar. The externals cost a bit more than internals because of the enclosure and power brick, but the difference is worth it. The lights on the external are useful. Even more important is that you can reset the power to an external modem if it locks up rather than having to restart the PC.

I'd recommend that you buy a U.S. Robotics V.90 external modem. They're available in various models, including ones with Fax or Fax/Voice capabilities. USRs make and hold a connection when others can't. I've been using them for twenty years now, and have never gotten a bad one. Back in the days when Hayes was the standard, USR got their foot in the door by focusing on BBS sysops, who had a true appreciation for a good modem. Nowadays, Hayes is bankrupt and USR has been the standard for many years.

USR used to have two main models. The Courier was their high-end modem. It was quite expensive, but favored by BBS sysops and corporations for its rock-solid dependability and compatibility with other modems. The Sportster was their lower-end, "consumer grade" modem, but it still beat the pants off competing models. As of late, it appears that USR may be eliminating the Courier/Sportster differentiation, although I noticed on the USR web site just now that they still sell the Courier V.Everything as a corporate solution.

* * * * *

I finally got around to downloading Opera, the web browser that isn't free. I've spent half an hour or so playing with it, and I begin to see a glimmer of why its fans are so enthusiastic. As one example, when I installed it, I completely forgot that I was using a proxy server and so I just fired it up and entered a URL. Opera displayed the URL normally. It wasn't until later when I was playing around in Preferences that I noticed that Opera had configured itself automatically to use the proxy server. I'd guess it went out and looked at either the IE or Navigator configurations (or both) to do this. No matter how it did it, this shows that Opera is concerned with usability. If it hadn't automatically configured itself for the proxy server, that would have only slowed me down for a few seconds. But a novice user might have been stymied, and it's nice to see that Opera cares enough to try to avoid common problems like that.

* * * * *

Early Evening: I didn't get the stuff from this afternoon published, because I was having problems with the Internet. I first noticed them trying to POP my mail. Then I noticed that web sites were coming up very slowly, if at all, in Opera. I thought maybe there was a problem with my connection, so I dropped it and dialed in again. Same slowness. So I tried dialing another ISP account that uses a completely different route to the Internet. Same deal. I'm beginning to think that the Internet as a whole is running very slowly today. I'll try publishing this in a few minutes, although something tells me that FrontPage will time out on the transfer.

* * * * *

And Chuck Waggoner [waggoner@gis.net] has this to say about the problem I am having with Internet Explorer links spontaneously changing between Small Icon mode and Large Icon mode:

I'm running IE version 4.72.3110, 128 bit, SP1 on Win98.

What happens when I organize things like you describe (which I think is a way cool idea, by the way) is that the first folder in the list (on the toolbar left) displays small icons, but all other folders display large icons. Also, hitting escape does not close the folder drop-down after I've clicked on it, which--for consistency's sake--it ought to. All folders display as 'details' in Windows Explorer, and all display small icons if, from the Start menu, you choose Favorites/Links/'folder name'

If someone figures this one out, I'd love to see the answer.

Are you certain that it's always the first one on the left? In my case, whichever one I open first during a session displays with small icons for the rest of that session, but any one I open subsequently displays with large icons. It doesn't matter which one I open first. It's always the first one opened that uses small icons forever after during that session. Exiting and then re-opening IE (or opening another instance) resets it so that again the first folder I open uses small icons. I'd love to find out the answer as well.

 


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Tuesday, January 26, 1999

I was reading Bo Leuf's site the other day when I came upon his Links page. One of those links was to Edmund Scientific. I remember buying things from Edmund Scientific when I was a teenager thirty years ago. Back then, they carried everything you needed--from mirror blanks and grit in bulk and pitch to tubes and spiders to equatorial mount components--to build your own reflector telescope. Anything from 3" to 12" as I recall. Geez, they even sold the domes you needed to build your own small-scale observatory.

They also sold lab equipment in small quantities for home users. A kid could (and I did) equip his own basement chemistry lab from the offerings of Edmund, everything from beakers, flasks and graduated cylinders to reasonably priced microscopes and centrifuges. And just about anything else a kid with a scientific bent might need. Lenses, radio components, power supplies, test equipment, etc. Some new, some used, much of it military and industrial surplus. Nowadays, the stuff they sell is all commercialized, much like what I'd expect to find at a toy store.

It makes me wonder where our next generation of scientists and engineers is going to come from. When I was a kid, we did things. We built ham radio equipment from old salvaged tube radios and TVs. We worked on automobile engines and experimented with our chemistry sets. We built our own telescopes, from grinding the mirror to assembling the equatorial mount. We built darkrooms and learned about photography (and some chemistry along the way). We built and launched rockets and built and flew RC airplanes from individual relays, receivers, and other components.

Nowadays, everything is packaged. Most hams buy stuff off the shelf instead of building their own. You can't work on car engines anymore unless you're willing to risk being busted by the air quality police. Today's chemistry sets are a joke. The manufacturers are so afraid of being sued that their so-called chemistry sets are pathetic. I found only a couple of places on the entire Internet that still sell mirror blanks, grit, and the other stuff needed to build a simple Newtonian reflector. Doing darkroom work is a dying hobby. Rocketry clubs probably can't afford the liability insurance nowadays, and RC equipment probably has to be FCC type-accepted.

When the first electronic calculators came out, I remember teachers objecting to them on the basis that people would become dependent on them rather than learning math. In retrospect, I think they were right. How many kids today can extract a square root manually or factor a quadratic equation? So technology does have a down side. That, the huge increase in litigation, and the general dumbing-down of society have all conspired to make it tough for kids with a scientific bent to do what comes naturally. They're probably off playing with their computers. Computers are great, but they aren't everything.

* * * * *

This from Tom Syroid [tsyroid@home.com] who is considering bringing up a local web server on his cable modem connection:

I'm planning to implement my own server ASAP, and I don't have any trouble paying the fees to register syroid.com, but I haven't yet had a chance to pay a visit to Shaw Cable and see how all this works with the structure they have in place.

I'm still a bit confused over DNS's. I thought they were supplied when you registered a domain name, but obviously they aren't. Where does one go about getting one's own DNS address?

Yes, Shaw's service is really starting to tick me off. But that hasn't stopped me from picking up a couple new 'regulars readers' today. Both noted that they had added me to their list of "Pournelle, Thompson, and Leuf". Oh to be in included in such honored company...

DNS is a network service that resolves host names into the corresponding IP addresses. For example, when you enter www.ttgnet.com into your browser, the DNS resolver stub in the browser queries the local DNS Server (in your case, one located at Shaw) to determine that the IP address that maps to www.ttgnet.com is 165.90.46.122. Grossly oversimplified, the DNS server at Shaw queries the .com DNS server to determine the address of the ttgnet.com DNS server. Once it finds that address, it queries the ttgnet.com DNS server to find the IP address of the host named "www". In order for this to work, there has to be a "home" DNS server for each domain name. Actually, two DNS servers are required by InterNIC to make sure that if one is down the other can still respond to DNS queries.

If you bring up your own domain (assuming you have a static IP address, which I can't remember if you do), you can make the NT machine that connects directly to the cable network your Primary DNS Server. You'll need to configure it to respond to queries directed to the syroid.com domain. But you need a second DNS server (with a different IP address). Unless you can talk Shaw into giving you a second static IP address, you'll have to get someone else to give you Secondary DNS. I can't do it, because I don't control my own servers. They're at Bigbiz.com, and I pay them to provide Primary and Secondary DNS (in addition to host my web server, etc.). You may be able to work a deal with some other cable modem user who also has a static IP address and wants to host his own domain. You'd provide your own Primary DNS and give him Secondary DNS. He, in turn, would provide his own Primary DNS and give you secondary DNS.

This is probably all as clear as mud. I'd suggest if you intend to proceed further that you pick up a copy of a good book about Windows NT TCP/IP Network Administration. Oops.

* * * * *

This from Shawn Wallbridge [swallbridge@home.com]:

I had never noticed the Large/Small Icon problem before. I found the same thing, The first folder opens fine and any after that open funny. Typical Microsoft.

About CD-R's. I have been wanting one for a while now. I have decided that I want the Plextor PlexWriter RW 4/2/20. The problem is that they are not available yet. I am a big fan of the Plextor CD products. I have an older 12x Plextor SCSI drive and it is lightning fast. I decided on the Plextor because it will do a bit for bit copy if you have a Plextor CD Rom. I want to keep copies of the software for work in a safe deposit box in case something happens. I decided I would buy a CD-RW because they are handy. I have an HP 7200 at work and when I need to take something big home I just burn it onto the RW and I am set. I don't think the RW drives are much more expensive now so it makes sense to me to spend a little extra for this feature. I don't think I would spend $30 for a CD-RW disk, but I have one and that does me fine.

As for SCSI vs. IDE, I still associate SCSI with being better. I have an HP 7200 series IDE drive at work on a Pentium II 300 w/96MB Ram. I have made one coaster and that is because I was doing it off the network. Which was stupid. So they work fine if you take the most basic precautions, but I still want a SCSI drive. Just as a test a friend of mine tried burning a CD while playing Quake II. It worked fine mostly because he had a SCSI burner.

As you have heard the Canadian Government has created a levy on any recordable media. Unfortunately this will ad 25 cents/ 15 min of recording time. The good news is that they have decided to waive it until Dec 31 1999. The bad news is that because of all the hype about it stores are sold out. The ones that aren't are charging 50% more. I was in the local Future Shop and they had no name disks on for $3 each. A month ago I purchased 20 Sony disks for $40. Hopefully the price will come back down.

P.S. Do you know any good sources of info on SMTP queuing and Exchange? Books or web. I can't find anything.

Yes, the consensus seems to be that IDE works, but SCSI works better. I'm running a Seattle-based homebrew with a Pentium II/300 (soon to be 450) and 128 MB of RAM (soon to be 256 MB) under Windows NT, which should be enough system to burn CDs reliably even with an ATAPI burner.

I'm sorry to hear that your government caved in to the music industry, but I'm not surprised. I suspect they spend a lot of money on lobbyists, a lesson Bill Gates may yet learn. Most of my sources here sell name brand blanks for anything from $1 to $2 each, and it's easy to find rebate deals and specials that drop that well under $1. How long can it be before we end up paying a music tax here, too?

As far as Exchange and SMTP queueing, I ran Exchange briefly and remember vaguely dealing with SMTP queueing, but not enough to do you any good. You might talk to my friend and future co-author Paul Robichaux. He recently wrote an Exchange 5.5 book. I don't know how much he knows about SMTP queueing, but he might be able to at least point you in the right direction.

* * * * *

And a follow-up from Tom Syroid [mailto:tsyroid@home.com]:

OK, I got all that and am generally familiar with how all this works. But where does someone who wants to host their own server get a unique IP address from -- given that they don't have one through their ISP like I do, or they don't have access to someone else who has one. Where do the Microsoft's/Suns/WinMags of the world get their IPs from?

And I do actually have your book on order from my local bookstore. They didn't have it in stock, I like dealing with them, and I our library doesn't have a copy in their system.

Ultimately, the IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority) is responsible for assigning IP network addresses. Or at least they used to be. There have been some changes in that area recently that I haven't been tracking too closely. Anyone can apply for a network number. For example, Triad Technology Group applied to InterNIC for a Class C network number, and was granted 204.238.30. That means that I own the range of IP addresses from 204.238.30.1 through 204.238.30.254, which I can assign to hosts as I please. However, in order for this to be meaningful, I have to have a full-time Internet connection, which I no longer have (although you do). But, the upstream provider has to be willing to route packets to and from your network address, which @Home most definitely will not.

The short answer to where IP addresses (actually network numbers) come from is that they are supplied by the upstream provider. For example, if I start a local ISP business, I have to connect to someone further upstream, typically a larger ISP. That ISP may in turn connect to an even larger ISP. Eventually, someone connects to a network service provider (NSP), which is one of the really big guys--MCI, etc. The ISP that I contract with for services supplies me with a subset of the IP addresses that he has been assigned by his upstream provider, and so on back to the NSP. That NSP has a either a Class A network address (16 million+ IP addresses and a network number that starts with 1. through 126.) or multiple, probably contiguous Class B network addresses (64K IP addresses and a network number that starts with 128. through 191).

Actually, nowadays, the old Class A, B, C network numbering has pretty much gone away, replaced by CIDR (Classless Interdomain Routing), which uses bit-level subnetting rather than the byte-level (octet) subnetting used by the older Class system. For example, an old-style Class C address allocates 3 full bytes to the network address (x) and only 1 byte (or 8 bits) to the host address (y) in the form x.x.x.y. That corresponds to a /24 address in CIDR syntax, the /24 indicating the number of bits assigned to the network address. An old-style Class B corresponds to /16 using CIDR, and the Class A to /8.

But with CIDR there's no requirement to subnet on the byte boundary. With the old Class system, the problem was always that someone would be too big to use a Class C (254 hosts), so they'd need a Class B (64K+ hosts). That wasted a lot of addresses. Nowadays, someone who is just a little too big for a Class C (/24) can be assigned a /23 network address to give them 512 host addresses, a /22 network address to give them 1,024 host addresses, etc. The upshot is that everyone can get the addresses he needs and the routing tables don't have to have entries for each discontiguous Class C address.

That's probably more than you wanted to know, but I hope it answered the question.

* * * * *

This from Chuck Waggoner [waggoner@gis.net] about the Internet Explorer problem:

Actually, you're absolutely right. It IS the first one I click that gets the small icons. I guess I was always clicking the folder on the left first.

Okay. I guess it's official. This is a real bug, one that's reproducible by different people running different environments. I wonder if IE5 still has the problem.

* * * * *

This from Jerry Mah [jerry-mah@home.com]:

[...] Regarding your other e-mail message on SCSI & CD-R, I too agree that SCSI is a dead-end technology now that firewire and USB devices are gaining momentum. However, it seems that Adaptec is firmly behind SCSI, and it might just be the case of inertia that wins them on this one. Let's hope not.

Regarding the Adaptec software, true it works... and it works well at that. However, it is limited in features, here are a few others that I would suggest: Nero, and CDRWin. These other products have a few features that Adaptec doesn't have, and may suit the task more aptly. From my own experiences, the software that you are using for the application matters just as much as what CD burner you've got. Adaptec seems to be the most popular however. This isn't like a wordprocessor that will work with any printer. It seems that you've got to mate your software to your hardware.

Thanks. I'll keep the software you mention in mind.

* * * * *

This from Tom Syroid [tsyroid@home.com]:

I don't know if you guys are aware of it or not, but MS just posted their TechNet Quarterly CD mailings on the site. When I subscribed to this, I found invaluable. Now it available for the looking, and it doesn't cost $295US a year.

http://technet.microsoft.com/cdonline/default.asp

Thanks. I went over to look at it briefly, but I couldn't figure out how to do a real search. There's a text box there that you can enter your search string into, but it seems to limit you to the width of the box, which isn't wide enough to put a useful string into. When I tried a couple of simple searches within the width limits of the box, e.g. "Internet Explorer", it returned no hits. Perhaps I couldn't make it work properly because I was using Navigator rather than IE at the time. If it works, this is indeed a very nice resource.

* * * * *

The following from Frank J. Albert [frankalbert@coastalnet.com]:

My daughter is a freshman in college taking her first   photography course.

The instructor wants them to use only fully manual cameras. I have an old Canon AE1 but it needs some repair. Time is of essence and I'd like to know if you'd be interested in selling the Pentax. Thanks!

No, I think I'll hold onto my old Pentax, but thanks for the offer.

If you're interested in buying an old, fully manual camera, try one of the New York camera stores like B&H or 47th Street Photo. Many of them sell used equipment, including some pretty old stuff like the original Honeywell Pentax Spotmatic, the Nikon F, and so on. You might be unpleasantly surpised by the prices, however. These things have now achieved classic/collector status, and most are priced accordingly.

Another thing you might consider is new equipment. I haven't followed the photography scene for years now, but it used to be that many Chinese manufacturers (like Seagull) made fully manual knock-offs of classic manual cameras like the Rolleiflex. Many of them were of decent quality, if not up to the fit and finish of the German and Japanese manufacturers. I suspect that such cameras are still widely available. If so, a quick look at the ad pages of one of the popular photography magazines should turn up quite a few candidates.

* * * * *

Barbara was in the midst of cooking her lunch when the microwave oven died as it was baking her potato. And I mean dead. Even the clock and internal light wouldn't come on. I went downstairs to check the breakers, and found that none had tripped. I went back upstairs to plug the can opener into the same receptacle. It ran fine. That didn't look good. I slid the oven out of cabinet so I could get to the back panel, hoping for a breaker on the back, or at least a fuse. The back panel was bare.

I called my appliance repair guy. He's honest, a pearl beyond price. When it's not worth fixing something, he says so. He told me that there is an internal fuze or breaker, but if it blew it probably did so for a good reason. He doesn't work on microwaves and doesn't recommend repairing them once they're out of warranty. He says that those who do repair microwaves typically charge a $50 minimum and that you can buy a decent 1000 watt unit at Wal-Mart for $125. At a guess, this oven is at least four or five years old, so it's probably not worth repairing.

Barbara and I have established a new tradition. Wednesday afternoons we visit the library and then go out to dinner. I guess I'll check Consumer Reports for microwave recommendations. I don't think much of Consumer Reports. Their Frequency of Repair statistics are about the only thing I pay any attention to. So then I guess we'll head for Wal-Mart and buy a new microwave.

 


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Wednesday, January 27, 1999

Barbara tells me that the microwave is closer to ten years old than five. And, as usual, an incident like this emphasizes the difference in the way that men and women remember things. Like most guys, I think to myself, "well we've had this for a while. Longer than a couple of years? Yeah, probably. As much as ten years? No, probably not. I guess it's about 5 years old." Barbara, on the other hand, like most women, goes about it entirely differently, putting everything into context with other events in our lives. Something like, "we moved into this house in October 1987. My parents gave us the microwave as a Christmas present, but I don't think it was the first year that we were living here. As a first approximation, then, it might have been Christmas 1988. Alison was here for Christmas dinner the year we got it. She moved to Mississippi in 1992 or 1993, and there were two or three years before she moved that she didn't come here for Christmas dinner. She must have moved in 1992, because she'd already moved to Mississippi when I moved from the Reynolda Manor branch library to the Rural Hall branch in ..." How does she remember that Alison was here for Christmas dinner the year we got the thing? How does she remember what month and year we moved here, come to that? Or what year Alison moved to Mississippi? I was proud of myself for remembering that her parents gave it to us and that Alison had moved to Mississippi.

And, being a good and wise husband, I showed the preceding to Barbara before I posted it. She laughed, and explained that the reason she remembers that Alison was here is that Alison gave her microwave dishes. Okay, now the only thing I don't understand is how she remembers that Alison gave her microwave dishes.

Of course, my father once literally drove away from a highway rest stop leaving my mother in the restroom. He got quite a few miles down the road before he remembered to turn around and pick her up. That's a hard one to explain, let alone live down. Actually, it was worse than I thought. Just now, I shouted downstairs to ask mom how far dad had gotten before he remembered he'd left her. She responded, "Which time?" Which time? Apparently, he did it again a few years later, driving away to pick me up at high school and leaving my mother at the grocery store, standing there with her arms filled with groceries. I wonder what she was thinking as she watched him retrieve the car from the parking lot and then cruise past her oblivious. But now that I've been reminded of that incident, I do remember the look on his face when I asked, "where's mom?" I know what must have happened. Sometimes I get to concentrating so hard on something that I literally forget to eat.

So perhaps it's genetic. Either that, or men's and women's memories operate the same way, but we each of us only remember things that are important to us at the time, and focusing our attention tightly on something can make us forget other things...

* * * * *

This from Chuck Waggoner [waggoner@gis.net]:

I've read comments from some of your readers recently, who want to put a copy of their computer files in a safe deposit box, thinking--I suppose--that represents security.

Now, I'm NOT a lawyer, and this isn't legal advice--just my observations as a lawyer's son, who has seen some things others might not otherwise be exposed to.

Our society has grown so litigious that I have observed safe deposit boxes belonging to banks, not to be so safe as I once thought. Banks, not wanting to be sued, often will not stand up for their customer's security and privacy, but frequently and immediately concede to what Judges order--even though the bank might have a right to object. For instance, if I'm a business entity, I might be sued. During the course of proceedings, my lockbox would be listed as holding assets and information, and a judge may order the contents impounded. This can also happen if I own a lockbox personally with my spouse, and one of us dies. The other of us can be kept from accessing the contents until Uncle Sam has examined it all and made sure he's getting his fair share of the assets in that box. In either case, I could be kept from those contents for from months to years.

So, when thinking about the safety of leaving computer files in a so-called 'safe deposit' box, I am concerned about 2 things: 1) will I actually have access to the contents when I need it; and 2) will someone else in some legal proceeding be given access to examine stuff I consider to be private? I've observed that both of those issues can present problems if I decide to entrust security to a bank deposit box--and doesn't even consider what might happen should the bank itself become embroiled in some legal controversy.

Excellent points, and I must admit that I hadn't really thought that aspect through. But I don't use a safe deposit box to store backups and similar material, and for a much more mundane reason. I need to be able to get to them whenever I want, not just when the bank happens to be open.

* * * * *

More on the issue of using Diskeeper 4 with Windows NT Service Pack 4, this from Gary M. Berg [Gary_Berg@ibm.net]:

I think this answered my original question about Diskeeper. I think it might be useful for this information to be available, since Executive Software doesn't have it posted on their web site.

-----Original Message-----

From: ljensen@executive.com [mailto:ljensen@executive.com]

Sent: Tuesday, January 26, 1999 3:31 PM

To: Gary_Berg@ibm.net

Subject: RE: Diskeeper 4.0 and NT4 SP4

There are no problems with Diskeeper or Diskeeper Lite and SP4. We have found problems with CHKDSK under SP4, and under SP3 if the partition is 8.4GB or larger. The vast majority of sites (95%+) have had NO problems with the CHKDSK, but some have experienced corruption. This only relates to Diskeeper's Boot-Time Consolidation features if you select the "run CHKDSK before and after" option.

We recommend that you do not select the "run CHKDSK" option. Instead, run CHKDSK/F before rebooting.

When you run CHKDSK from the command prompt, do not use the /R switch; that's the one that causes trouble. When you run CHKDSK from Disk Administrator, you can select the "fix files" box, but not the "repair sectors" box; "repair sectors" is the same as the /R switch. If you must use the /R switch, do a full backup just before. Then if you do get corruption, you will be able to recover.

Lance Jensen

Executive Software Tech Support

 -----Original Message-----

From: Gary M. Berg [SMTP:Gary_Berg@ibm.net]

Sent: Monday, January 25, 1999 11:32 AM

To: Ljensen@executive.com

Subject: Diskeeper 4.0 and NT4 SP4

Lance,

I'm the reader Bob Thompson mentioned. He just sent me the note saying he seems to have solved his problem with DKLite and NT4/SP4.

I had a couple of questions for you:

1) As far as you are aware, there are no problems with DKLite and SP4?

2) I've read on the net that there are some problems with Diskeeper 4.0 and NT4/SP4; specifically dealing with the boot time defrag. Can you confirm for me if this is the case or not?

I'm looking at setting up several workstations in the near future, and was thinking of DK4 but ran across the mention of problems with SP4.

Gary Berg

* * * * *

And more from Gary M. Berg [Gary_Berg@ibm.net], this time about manual cameras:

Bob (and Frank),

Saw the query from Frank Albert about manual cameras - indeed, mail order places like B&H are a good possible source. Also Jack's Camera (www.jackscamera.com) has a fair amount of used equipment, and I've actually seen the place and it's back room full of used cameras (it's in Muncie, IN).

A good place to look for camera suggestions and critique of suppliers is on www.photo.net/photo - the Photo.net site has a lot of useful information, suggestions of mail order places to buy, and a Neighbor to Neighbor section where people can give experiences with various supplies.

Photo.net also addresses the exact question - camera for a beginner taking a photography class. What many people forget is that a normal SLR can be "dumbed down" to an all manual camera. Cameras such as the Canon Rebel G (or the Elan II which I own) can be set on manual exposure and manual focus. This means you don't buy one camera to use for the class and then later buy another camera to use for non-class photography (believe me, auto exposure and auto focus can be handy when used properly).

Thanks. I'm sure that'll be of help to Frank. I haven't done much more than shoot family snapshots for many years, so I've lost track of the business. Auto-anything is pretty foreign to me. I got started in serious photography more than 30 years ago with a 11X14 Ansco cherrywood field camera (with Red Dot Artar lens) that my school was about to discard! So anything that doesn't use a focusing cloth is the ultimate in automation for me. The first time I used a 35mm SLR (a Nikon F), it took me quite a while to determine that I couldn't figure out the camera movements because there weren't any.

* * * * *

And a followup from Bo Leuf [bleuf@algonet.se] about Edmund Scientific:

I agree with your observations there. I too have fond memories of the Edmunds catalog from way back (Canada), ordering a lot of neat surplus or not-quite-up-to-specs but really cutting-edge stuff at decent prices that would have been impossible to play with otherwise. It was a cornerstone for a _lot_ of innovation, and one could learn a lot hands-on in many fields of study with their stuff. Many years later, back in Sweden, I ordered a new catalog and was greatly disappointed in how little of that remained. When I ran across the website, that was fun and again raised memories, but as you correctly note, there is very little of that basic experimentation kind of material offered. Prepackaged pap rules. Which of course means that people are clueless should something be unpackaged.

And if its not the threat of lawsuits cutting down opportunities, as in the US, it is regulatory authorities as here that determine a priori that xxx is "dangerous" and must not be allowed on the off chance that some person will do something illconsidered. They'd regulate gravity if they could -- heck, people *fall* and *hurt themselves*...

The sad part is people become accustomed to this kind of "safety regulated" mindset, seem to think it's a good idea, and so become progressively less adapted and prepared to meet real life.

Exactly. Looking back, I can see that some of the stuff we did back then would have given our parents heart attacks if they'd known about it. Hell, it almost gives me a heart attack thinking about it now. We made nitroglycerine in the basement, and not in tiny quantities, either. Although we never completed it, we were far along toward building a small rocket engine that we planned to fuel with 30% hydrogen peroxide and methanol/hydrazine (what the Germans called T-Stoff and C-Stoff, respectively, and used to fuel their ME-163 Komet rocket fighter, which frequently blew up catastrophically). We messed around with obsolete photographic processes that used nasty stuff like potassium cyanide. We made daguerreotypes, which required fuming a silver-plated copper sheet with mercury. We did any number of things that could easily have had fatal results. And yet, we're all still here, and we learned a lot. I guess you could say that we had no sense, but at least we were careful.

* * * * *

More from Gary M. Berg [Gary_Berg@ibm.net] about photography:

Starting with an 11x14 camera would definitely put you in the "large format" camp of photography! I started out borrowing my Dad's Minolta SRT-101, and SLR, and then later got my own SLR. Years later I tried to use a rangefinder and had lots of trouble getting used to the idea that the image was in focus but the camera wasn't focused.

I've found that using auto-exposure helps a lot as far as getting well-exposed pictures. It doesn't matter much whether it's the older match-needle type of exposure needle or automatic. However, the newer cameras do divide the viewfinder into several sections and seem to do a fairly good job of getting good exposure even in trying situations.

But autofocus is wonderful; I can remember using my older SLRs and rocking back and forth. The current models find focus much more quickly than I can, and they usually do a good job. If you're taking a picture of a mountain it doesn't matter much, but things which are moving are easier to focus with an autofocus.

I used a point and shoot (Samsung ECX-1) for several years, but recently went back to my old SLR and it was like coming home. Everything just seemed "right", and I've gone back to using my larger SLR equipment because I'm so much happier with it.

I actually got started in photography when I was 11. I'm not sure why I decided I wanted to learn about photography, but I headed for the library to find some books about it. At that time, the ground floor of the library was the adult section, and the children's area was the second floor. I headed for the stacks in the children's area and found a group of books, all by Ansel Adams. The series name was Basic Photography, with individual books on The Camera, The Negative, The Print, etc. They were thin gray books, and I remember thinking they were small enough that they should be pretty easy to get through. When I got home and started reading them, I was glad I'd picked up the series on Basic Photography instead of holding out for one on Advanced Photography. So, my start in photography was learning about camera movements, the Zone System, compounding one's own developers, and so on.

I didn't actually start with the large-format stuff. That came later, when I was about 14. I started with a collection of box and folding cameras that used roll film and were mostly 2.25" square or 2.25 X 3.25". Shortly after that, someone gave me an old 4X5, which was my intro to sheet film. I never used an SLR until I got to high school.

But you're right about automation. Barbara and I have a couple of point-and-shoot auto-everything 35's around. But we mostly use our old manual SLRs. And I do miss autofocus sometimes when I'm using them, particularly when I'm using Barbara's main camera, which she usually leaves the plain matte focusing screen in. No microprisms, no rangefinder, just plain ground glass. Ugh. Somehow, it was different looking at a big piece of ground glass under a focusing cloth.

 


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Thursday, January 28, 1999

Barbara had some errands to run yesterday, so she stopped by Best Buy to check microwave prices. I was surprised how low they were. Name brand 1.5 to 1.9 cubic foot units with a kilowatt or more, large carousels, and all the bells and whistles were in the $130 to $175 range. Barbara and I stopped by the library yesterday afternoon to check Consumer Reports for a microwave review. They did one in the December, 1998 issue, so I read what they had to say. No much worth reading, unfortunately.

I don't think much of Consumer Reports. Their liberal/left/environmentalist leanings color everything they write about. When they've reviewed things that I know a lot about, I've often disagreed strongly with what they've had to say. So, I see no reason to think their advice is any better when they report about things I know little about. In the past, the only thing I've considered worthwhile is their Frequency of Repair ratings, but I'm starting to wonder about those.

The Frequency of Repair ratings chart for microwaves listed eight or ten manufacturers. The most reliable was Sanyo, at 4%. All of the others were between 4% and 8%, except Quasar, at 10%. The Panasonic was next to last, at 8%. Our old microwave, which we used daily for ten years, was a Panasonic. The chart noted that differences of four percentage points or less were not significant, so from the information given it was impossible to judge whether the 8% Panasonic was more or less reliable than the 4% Sanyo. About the only useful information that chart provided was that the Quasar was less reliable than any other model they rated.

But I wonder if the chart provided any useful information at all. First, what does "repair" mean? Who repairs a broken microwave, anyway? The things cost anything from $89 to maybe $250, and I've been told that a typical repair might cost anything from $100 to $200. Who is going to pay that much to repair a broken unit when new units are available so cheaply? So what is the real size of the universe they used in evalutating frequency of repair?

Then, as they do point out if not in much detail, they haven't normalized the data. They send out a survey and simply accept whatever responses come back. That's not a valid sampling method. And they are simply grouping all models from a particular manufacturer and assigning one value for reliability to that manufacturer. Again, not a valid method. So it seems that, although they are providing what amounts to casual anecdotal data, they present it in a format that makes it appear to have been collected and analyzed in a scientifically and statistically rigorous manner.

So I decided the heck with it. Barbara and I left the library and headed for a restaurant. After dinner, we cruised out to Wal-Mart and checked their offerings. They had a Panasonic 1.9 cubic foot kilowatt unit on sale for $130. It looked to be about the same size as our old Panasonic unit, and had similar features. We figured we'd be better off with another Panasonic so that we wouldn't have to re-learn all the functions. We bought it, carried it home, unpacked it, plugged it in, and it works fine.

Then I started thinking about the Consumer Reports Frequency of Repair data. If they really want to provide useful information, they could do so simply by asking their readers what they thought of their microwaves, without making any attempt to put a pseudo-scientific gloss on the resulting data. Simply asking "Are you satisfied with the reliability of your Panasonic microwave?" would generate useful data.

Although it's not a well-known phenomenon, the central tendency of collective judgement can give amazingly good results. If you ask a large group of people to guess about something about which they know nothing, the average of the responses is often surprisingly close to the real figure. For example, if I picked a country at random, say Ivory Coast, and asked my readers to send in their best guesses of its surface area, the individual responses would vary greatly, but the average of those responses would likely be very close to the correct figure.

As a matter of fact, let's do it. Email me your best guess of how many square miles (or square kilometers if you think in metric--I'll do the conversions) the boundaries of Ivory Coast encompass. Please don't look it up. Just give me your best guess off the top of your head (and tell me whether your guess is in square miles or square kilometers, because that won't be obvious from context). And don't worry about looking foolish. I won't publish anyone's individual guess. I'll simply post the results as the highest guess, lowest guess, the arithmetic mean of the guesses, and the actual figure. I'll let this run for several days to accumulate responses and then publish the findings, results be damned.

And if you ask people to give their opinions about something they do know something about the results are better still. That's why PC Magazine's surveys provide good information. They ask how likely a responder is to buy the same product again. That's probably the most valuable piece of information they gather, because it provides a gestalt of how people feel about the equipment being surveyed.

If you ask people whether they consider their Panasonic microwaves to be reliable, the results will vary all over the map, both because individual units vary in reliability and because people's expectations differ greatly. Some people will have had one fail after only a couple of years, but will rate it reliable because it worked well for them and they figure they got their money's worth out of it. Others will have one fail after fifteen year's use, and rate it unreliable simply because it died. So there will be "unfair" responses on both ends of the spectrum because of unrealistic expectations, but those responses will tend to cancel each other, and the central tendency will provide a reasonably good number.

* * * * *

The following is from Bo Leuf [bleuf@algonet.se], who obviously has forgotten more about memory than I've ever learned:

Hehe...

As I've become fond of saying: "I really can't recall a single occasion when I've ever forgotten anything." :)

>>>

Of course, my father once literally drove away from a highway rest stop leaving my mother...

...

or men's and women's memories operate the same way, but we each of us only remember things that are important to us at the time

<<<

Memory and recall processes are fascinating, and pursuit of these issues really bring up a lot of problematic things. Such as the extreme variance between several people's memories of the same event, the relative ease of implanting "false memories", and memory as the basis of our entire sense of personal identity.

Reading the literature on the subject with a bit broader perspective sort of confirms that we still don't really understand "memory" all that well. There is quite a bit of research on short-term vs long-term memory and the verified biochemical couplings between the two, but not that much about _how_ it all works. For instance, we know of numerous circumstances when short-term to long-term storage goes wrong, and can to some extent influence this process (brainwashing techniques are but one example). We are less clear about how to promote clear and reliable memory, the many how-to books on mnemonic techniques notwithsatnding. In my own mind, I like to keep a distinction between "remembering" and "recall".

In practical terms, most people "remember" most of the time, which means they actively *reconstruct* and *abstract* stored memories into an intellectual summary of sorts. This is a (re)creative process and the results easily overlay memories of previous occasions of remembering the same thing. This can and does cause considerable drift from the original event, as future "remembering" may typically refer mostly to the memory of the last time you remembered this event. This is the basis for suggestion and implanting false memories. On the other hand, this kind of creative memory is likely also the basis for intellectual abstraction and indexing, which has proven to have great survival value for humans.

By contrast, what "recall" then implies is recovering the *raw* experience, for example when some sensory stimulous brings up other associated sensations from the past which you experience *as if you were there*, unedited as it were. The indexing of these memories is largely out of our conscious control, though it seems that women may be better at using this kind of "non-logic" index for retrieval than men are. Hence their rather remarkable association paths.

One consequence of "remembering" rather than "recalling" is that different reconstructions of events can vary significantly from the original event. This is why written protocols were invented, right? Note also how formalized memory traditions (e.g. history and legend storytellers in illiterate cultures) go to great lengths (by and large successfully) to anchor the descriptive material about events in rhyme, meter and associations, and perhaps more often than not in certain more reliable "recall" processes.

In modern times, we have abandonned much of rote learning, and have largely discounted the power of true recall, trusting instead to written notes and other external aids. Much to our collective loss.

* * * * *

And now I need to get back to work on the chapter.

* * * * *

Hmm. My web server and POP server, both located at bigbiz.com, went down just as I was trying to update my web page. Apparently, some files were updated and others weren't. Both servers are working again, so I'll repost this.

* * * * *

Well, that worked, but the publishing process took 15 or 20 minutes rather than the minute or two that it usually takes. Apparently, my server is overloaded at the moment. At least I got a "published" prompt at the end, so it was indeed completely published. In the past, I've sometimes gotten a time-out error during the "processing web updates" phase. Each time that's happened, I checked the web site and found that the publishing had in fact succeeded, at least in the sense that all updated pages were available on the server.

If our cable and/or telephone company ever get around to offering cable modem and/or ADSL service with a static IP address, I think I'll start running a local web server, mail server, DNS server, etc. It'd be nice to have direct control over this whole process.

* * * * *

Mid-Afternoon: I'm still having problems with my mail and web servers, but have gotten several responses to my Ivory Coast question already, including the following from Lee Mandell [Lee_Mandell@iceinc.com]:

Ok -- <guess removed by RBT> sq miles.

Although it seems to me that you're mixing two kinds of data here. The first "Are you satisfied ..." is a subjective personal opinion, the second (surface area) is a (somewhat)verifiable figure. Kind of like the difference between: Do you think President Clinton should be impeached? and The Federal Budget for this year is?"

Thanks. As it turns out, the actual value is <removed> square miles or <removed> square kilometers. As it happens, my own guess was also <removed> square miles, or <removed> square kilometers. It'll be interesting to see how the results turn out. I'm not going to process the numbers as I receive them, just to make sure I don't unconsciously skew the results. I'll wait a few days, or until I've gotten 50 or so responses, or until the response rate slows to a trickle, whichever comes first, and then I'll plug the numbers into Excel and see how they turn out.

As far as mixing objective and subjective data, you're correct in one sense. But the point we're trying to reach is an answer to the semi-quantifiable question, "does Panasonic make reliable microwave ovens?" Obviously, words like "reliable" constitute value judgements, but the cumulative responses to such a question can be considered as a pseudo-objective data point in the sense that responses from a reasonably large statisical universe represent a consensus of what "reliable" means.

If you ask one person's opinion of the movies Bringing Up Baby and Plan 9 from Outer Space, you may receive an anomalous response. That particular person may simply dislike Cary Grant or screwball comedies, and think that the first movie was a poor one because of that prejudice. Conversely, that person may love campy 50's sci-fi movies and rate Plan 9 highly on that basis.

But if you get responses from 100 or 1,000 people, I'll bet you'll find that the consensus is that Bringing Up Baby is one of the best movies ever made, and that Plan 9 from Outer Space is one of the worst. Although a movie can't be good or bad in any true objective sense unless you rule out personal preferences entirely, the consensus provides a reasonable yardstick when you're deciding which movie to rent.

 


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Friday, January 29, 1999

My web hosting service, Bigbiz.com, is about to drive me nuts. I didn't get a thing done yesterday, between problems with my mail and web servers and dealing with the Blue Cross/Blue Shield bureaucracy. At this point, connectivity with BigBiz is so bad that I probably won't be able to update my web site successfully. I'm going to try, just so that I'll at least have a notice posted about the problems.

If you try to hit my web site and can't reach it, please try again later. I'm doing everything I can to get the problems resolved, but it may take a while. Also, I've been having problems getting mail. Some messages have been delayed for long periods, and others have apparently been lost entirely. I always respond quickly to mail messages, even if with only a short confirmation, so if you've mailed me and don't receive a reply within a day, please resend your message.

Thanks, and sorry for the problems.

 


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Saturday, January 30, 1999

The good news is that most of the problems with accessing this site appear to be fixed. The bad news is that I burnt most of yesterday trying to deal with them and looking into moving my site to another web hosting service. I still may do that. Robert Morgan recommended pair Networks, which was the one I spent the most time looking at. I checked several of the web hosting rating services, including Budgetweb, Host Find, Top Hosts, and The Ultimate Web Host List. The consensus seemed to be that pair Networks was a good one.

They're cheaper than the web hosting service I'm with now, they have fewer disk and throughput constraints, and it appears they have better connectivity. I've already sent them a message with several questions that weren't clear from the materials posted on their web site. For now, at least, most of my web and mail server access problems seem to have gone away, but I'm still thinking seriously about moving to pair Networks.

* * * * *

Responses continue to come in to my query about the surface area of Ivory Coast. If you haven't responded yet, please do. If you responded, but didn't receive an acknowledgement note from me, please send your guess again.

* * * * *

I did my standard weekly full backup yesterday afternoon. Full in the sense that I back everything up that needs backed up, but not in the sense that I back up everything. I have entire partitions that I don't back up, for example those that contain copies of distribution CDs. But Backup Exec this time told me that I had about 6.1 GB of data to be backed up. In theory, that's well within the capability of my Seagate TapeStor Travan TR4 drive, a so-called "8 GB" drive. In fact, as with all tape drives, manufacturers assume 2:1 compression, and so double the native capacity of the drive.

But I've never gotten anything like 2:1 compression with this or any other tape drive. Now it may be that my mix of data types is consistently less compressible than what the manufacturers are assuming, but over many years with many tapes drives on many systems using many backup packages, I've gotten 1.5:1 pretty consistently. That means that my 4 GB Travan TR4 can really store about 6 GB of compressed data, and the amount I needed to backup yesterday was perilously close to that figure.

As it happened, I had 6,045,403,730 bytes to back up. When the verify pass finished, it showed that it had compared 3,891,703,049 bytes, which translates to 1.55:1 compression. That came closer to the actual 4 GB (actually four billion byte) capacity of the tape than I wanted to come. I really don't want to have to go to multiple tapes. In addition to the inconvenience of having to change tapes during a backup, the tapes themselves aren't cheap. So it appears that I need to look at a larger capacity tape drive. The new Travan NS20 drives provide 10 GB native and 20 GB compressed, so I'll probably be looking at one of those.

* * * * *

And while the verify pass was running, I decided to download the latest version of the PC Magazine benchmark tests, WinBench 99. It's about a 9 MB download, and it finished just about the time the verify pass finished. I installed the benchmark tests on kerby, my main workstation, just to play around with them. They installed with no problems.

Then I made the mistake of firing up WinBench just to see what it looked like. I picked the "Run all tests" option. WinBench displayed an information box to inform me that it was going to defrag my drive and then reboot the computer. Not so much as a by-your-leave. As it happened, I had eight or ten instances of Internet Explorer running, each with a web site that I was doing research on. I hadn't yet gotten around to bookmarking several of those sites yet, so I figured I'd better kill WinBench, save the bookmarks, and then restart it. No dice. I right clicked the Task Bar to get Task Manager up, but WinBench kept clearing the menu before I could click on Task Manager. I watched every one of those IE instances disappear at the rate of about one per second, one after the other. There wasn't a thing I could do.

After all the programs were closed, WinBench did its defrag, which lasted all of five seconds (I have Diskeeper running every night to keep the disk defragged.) The system then rebooted. It examined my system and found several things it didn't like. The show-stopper was that I had the AutoHide and Always on top check boxes marked for my Task Bar. For some reason, WinBench 99 doesn't allow anything to be configured for Always on top. I exited WinBench, fixed the Task Bar Properties, and restarted it. The test suite started at 8:15 and completed about a hour and a half later.

This program provides some good information, but if you install it remember that it's a very aggressive program.

* * * * *

And another data point concerning the intelligence of Border Collies. Our younger dog, Duncan, loves to go roaring out the back door to the deck. He has done since he was a tiny puppy. He knows that squirrels live out there. Our gas grill also lives out there, and he long ago learned the word "grill." If anyone mentions that word, he scrambles for the back door and stands there whining desperately, with whines sometimes turning into howls. But yesterday we found that he'd carried the association one step further. I asked Barbara what we were going to have for dinner. She said, and I quote, "I think I'll do some steaks." We heard the mad scramble and found Duncan standing at the back door, whimpering. He made the connection by himself, that "steaks" means "grill" and that "grill" means the back door is soon to be opened. Geez.

* * * * *

And I'd better sit down and make a list of the stuff I need to pick up at CSO. I have several system boards on the way in that I want to test, and I don't have an unused ATX chassis in the house. I want to build a test-bench system to swap stuff in and out of, so I think I'll get an ATX desktop case. I also need to pick up all the incidentals--mouse, keyboard, network card, memory, video card, etc. And I'd better get some Y-splitters for power supply connectors, because I might want to put a bunch of drives in it. Come to think of it, I'd better get a keyboard adapter for AT/mini-DIN, too.

* * * * *

And while Robert Morgan and I were exchanging mail about web hosting services, I mentioned that I thought I'd need pair Network's "Advanced" account, because I needed FrontPage extensions. One of the reasons I mentioned for needing the FP extensions was that I had already implemented the FrontPage Search capability, which requires them. Robert sent the following response:

Huh.

I never *saw* the search link on your home page, since I generally go straight to your day notes, which don't have a search link I could see.

So then I tried the Obvious Search, for Robert Morgan. It found 99 pages! Needless to say, I think its broken, unless you're secretly embedding my name on all the pages on your site...

Hmm. Good point. I'm in the midst of creating a "Reports Home Page" right now, which I'll add as a link on the left column of my Daynotes page. While I'm at it, I'll also add a Search link.

As far as your search, 99 pages does indeed seem excessive. My guess is that you entered the string

     robert morgan

and that Search found any page that included "robert" or "morgan". Obviously, my first name appears on many of my pages, so that may have caused all the hits. I think you can enter

     "robert morgan"

instead to find just the pages with your name. If the quotes don't work, you might also try:

     robert and morgan

I was going to check that myself, but I can't get my damn search page to load....

And I've already started to modify my Daynotes page. Starting next week, I'll add links for "Special Reports" and "Search TTG" in the left column. Now, if only I could get the search function to work. The servers at my web hosting company are apparently too busy. When I try a search, it always times out.

* * * * *

And regarding access problems, this from Frank McPherson [frank_mcpherson@email.msn.com]:

FWIW, I have had no problems accessing your site, in fact it has been one of the faster sites to get to during the last couple of days.

My local ISP sent an email saying that they have been having problems with their up stream provider, MCI, so perhaps there are bigger things afoot than problems with BigBiz.

On the gripping hand, you would think if that was the case one would think that BigBiz would send you an email.

Yes, I suspect you're right. I've seen several days since the first of the year when the Internet itself was pathetically slow in general. But the problems I was having were specific to BigBiz, or perhaps to MAE-West. I did frequent tracerts while I was having the problem. They'd get all the way to MAE-West and then die. BigBiz is co-located at Hurricane Electric (he.net), which is just one hop from MAE-West.

BigBiz has been responsive, in the sense that they replied to email messages and called back when I paged them. They even offered to move me from server1 to server5, which they said was less heavily loaded. And that may have helped out with the web server response time problem on searches and so on. But the root problem was connectivity, and I'm not sure what if anything they can do about that. Nothing, if the problem is at MAE-West.

* * * * *

And now I'd better get to work on that shopping list for Computer & Software Outlet.

 


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Sunday, January 31, 1999

The results are in on the Ivory Coast survey. I arbitrarily cut it off at 100 responses. As it turns out, the actual value is 124,503 square miles (sm) or 322,464 square kilometers (sk). The lowest guess was 125 sm (324 sk). The highest was 3,000,000 sm (7,769,995 sk). The arithmetic mean of all guesses was 151,814 sm (393,199 sk), which is roughly 20% high. However, when doing something like this, it's common practice to eliminate one or a few values from both top and bottom of the range, just to prevent guesses that are widely off from skewing the results. The 3,000,000 sm guess was by far the highest (the next highest was 500,000 sm). Knocking out it and the lowest guess gives an arithmetic mean of 124,299 sm (321,934 sk), which is 0.998+ of the correct value.

* * * * *

We picked up my friend Steve Tucker yesterday and headed for Computer & Software Outlet to pick up the stuff I need to build a test bed ATX box. I already have the system board, processor, keyboards, and a usable video card, so we got the following items:

  • ATX case with 300 watt power supply ($69.00)
  • PC-100 DIMMs, 4X64, 32MB (two @ $46.00 = $92.00)
  • Toshiba 32X ATAPI CD-ROM drive ($55.00)
  • Mitsumi 3.5" 1.44 MB floppy drive ($18.95)
  • LinkSys PCI 10/100 Ethernet board ($32.50)
  • Mitsumi PS/2 mouse ($9.95)
  • Power supply Y-splitters (two @ $2.95 = $5.90)
  • Adapter, AT keyboard to PS/2 port ($2.99)

Total damage, with tax, $303.47. Perhaps a bit more than it would have cost me mail-order, but there're no shipping charges, so it's nearly a wash. Some people hold sales taxes against local vendors, but that's not really reasonable. Even if I buy something mail-order, I have to tell the NC Department of Revenue about it and pay a "use tax" that's the same as the sales tax. Also, if something doesn't work, it's a lot less hassle to take it back to CSO than to have to ship stuff back and forth.

I was also going to buy another keyboard/video/mouse switch and the necessary cables, but it's easy enough to switch the monitor between systems on my test bench, and I already have plenty of keyboards. Actually, I have plenty of unused mice, too, including probably half a dozen of the old "dove bar" mice. Just in case, I bought an AT to Mini-DIN keyboard adapter. I probably have both kinds lying around, but better safe than sorry. That's actually one of those items that I buy compulsively whether I need it or not. Yesterday was my first visit to a computer store in a long time that I didn't buy an IDE cable. I always buy IDE cables. I probably have literally fifty spare IDE cables in this place. But I always buy one just in case.

I also picked up two CPU retention mechanisms for the Intel Seattle board. The eval unit that my Intel contact sent me was a used unit, and was missing the CPU retention bracket (the thing that stands vertically and provides supporting vertical slots to slide the CPU into). I was hoping that CSO had a dead Seattle board and that I could sweet-talk them into letting me salvage the CPU retention mechanism. As it turned out, they had a couple of spares in the back from another brand of system board that supplies the mechanism separately. I picked up a set for the Pentium II and another for the Celeron, although the Seattle-1 doesn't support the Celeron. Steve also picked up a set for his Pentium II, because the Seattle-1 he bought on an auction site didn't include the CPU retention bracket either.

I looked at the HP SureStore 8100i IDE CD-ROM burner while I was there, but CSO wanted $379 for it, which seemed a bit much. I notice that those are selling for about $325 including shipping from mail-order places. Steve wasn't planning to buy anything before we arrived at CSO, but he too picked up a few compulsive cables before we left.

We headed back for Steve's house to drop him off. We were planning to go over there around 5:00 p.m. anyway to have dinner and spend the evening. But then Steve and I got started down in his office/computer room. Eventually, Barbara offered to go back to our house, take care of the dogs, make dinner for my mother, and come back later on. So Steve and ended up working all afternoon on his computers. Around 6:00 p.m. we took a short break and headed for the West Town restaurant for dinner.

When we got back, Steve and I headed downstairs again. We got to talking about my recent web site problems and the fact that I was considering changing web service providers. Steve ran the Wakeolda BBS (bulletin board system) for many years. He actually only shut it down for good a few months ago. He's been thinking about registering his own domain name and starting up a web site, and one thing led to another.

Two of the web service providers on my short list are pair Networks and Burlee Networks. Both of them are well-regarded by users and get good reviews. After looking at both, Steve decided (with some nudging from me) to go with the pair Networks basic account. He registered wakeolda.com through them and signed up for service. pair Networks has a lot of good things going for them, not least of which is their superb connectivity and their sheer size (they run 160+ UNIX web servers). Their only downside for me (and it wasn't a major issue for Steve) is that they really want to focus on web serving versus handling email. They include only one mailbox in their standard price, but they do allow unlimited autoforwards to external mailboxes. You can buy additional mailboxes for $1/month. That's a fairly standard policy, but what's not standard is that they apply it to virtual mailboxes within your domain. For example, BigBiz includes one true POP mailbox, but I can set up as many virtual mailboxes within the ttgnet.com domain as I want and POP directly from each of them.

The pair Networks mailbox policy may be a problem for me. If they allowed autoforwards to internal mailboxes, that'd be no problem. If, for example, my main mailbox could be thompson@ttgnet.com and I could setup autoforwards for webmaster@ttgnet.com, info@ttgnet.com, etc., that'd be fine. But it appears that I can't setup those autoforwards to thompson@ttgnet.com because it's an internal rather than an external mailbox. Well, I could set them up, but it looks like I have to pay a buck a month each for them. In addition, pair Networks places severe constraints on the size of those mailboxes. Various places on their web site, they list 0.5 MB, 1 MB, and 3 MB as the size limit for mailboxes. They also mention charging a $1 per week fee for going over. That's excessive. I don't tend to keep mail in my mailboxes very long. I POP every few minutes throughout the day. But sometimes I have quite a bit of mail accumulate overnight, and I do occasionally get very large files (e.g. chapters zipped up with figures) that would exceed the allowances. So, although pair Networks looks like a pretty good deal for Steve, I don't think pair Networks is for me.

Once we got Steve signed up, we installed FrontPage 98 and I tried to show him some of the tricks and traps of using it. In a couple of days, Steve will be heading for Daytona for the race (he works for R. J. Reynolds), so we probably won't get his site up and running until after he gets back.

* * * * *

And I think my mail may be screwed up again. I checked my mail when we got home around midnight. I only had four new messages when I logged on this morning. Usually, I'd expect to have somewhere between 15 and 25 during that period. Again, if you send me mail and don't hear back from me within a day at most, please resend it. I probably didn't get it.

 



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.