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Daynotes Journal

Week of 2/22/99

Sunday, February 28, 1999 12:39

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, February 22, 1999

Back to work on the book. As I open a new week's Daynotes file I'm wondering if I should stick with the weekly format or go to a daily format. The drawback to the weekly format is that the files get very large. The FrontPage status bar gives the download time for this file right now as about 5 seconds. That assumes a 28.8 dialup, I think. Once filled out, the files take a great deal longer to download. I noticed when I finished last week's file, for example, that the download time was showing as 93 seconds. Someone who reads this every day ends up reading the Monday notes on Monday, but downloading those Monday notes six more times throughout the week.

But I haven't thought through all the implications of doing a daily file. Certainly, I could put a "Yesterday" and a "Tomorrow" link at the top and/or bottom of each page. That'd allow people to scroll back and forth easily through the days. But I really don't have time to do a lot of manual organizing and link creation, so I'm not sure how I'd index the thing. I'll keep thinking about it. If anyone feels strongly one way or the other, please let me know.

* * * * *

This from Jeff Powell [powelljh@ci.richmond.va.us] about the future of modems:

Where do you think history is heading? What's on the horizon?

Modems have no future. They've reached their ultimate pinnacle with V.90. The limiting factor is telephone lines themselves. The telcos restrict bandwidth on a standard phone line to sidebands of 3 kilohertz. Subtracting guard bands and so forth leaves about 2,600 Hertz usable. The Shannon Limit says that a channel this size can transfer, as I recall, a maximum of about 3,600 baud. The best currently available encoding methods allow you to encode 16 bits per baud, yielding 57,200 bits/second. I may have these numbers a bit scrambled, but the essence of it is that we're never going to be able to transfer data faster across a standard telephone line than we do now. And that's a hard limitation of physics rather than a technological limitation. The wires themselves, you understand, can transfer data much faster by using an alternative technology like ISDN or xDSL.. It's the POTS circuit that can't go any faster.

And the days of circuit-switching for data connections are rapidly drawing to a close. Back when I ran a bulletin board system, I had lots of users. Each of them typically called not just my BBS, but perhaps a dozen or so other BBSs. So the connections were serial many-to-many. Nowadays, most people call just one number with their modems, that of an ISP. There's no longer any need for circuit-switched connections. A point-to-point connection serves the purpose more efficiently, and allows much higher data throughput, as with xDSL or a cable modem.

As xDSL and cable modems become ubiquitous, I suspect that the phone company is going to have a lot of people cancelling extra phone lines. If the standards bodies ever get around to developing standards for IP-based faxing, I suspect it'll largely replace standard faxing almost overnight. The phone companies make a lot of money on fax lines and fax long-distance calls, so I suspect they're doing everything they can to prevent IP faxing from becoming standardized. It's probably a bigger real threat to them right now than voice over IP.

* * * * *

UPS just showed up with an Intel RC440BX motherboard. Like the EPoX EP-BXT, the Intel RC440BX is an integrated motherboard. But where the EP-BXT includes Intel740 video and Yamaha sound, the RC440BX includes integrated nVidia RIVA 128ZX video and integrated Creative Labs SoundBlasterPCI 64V audio. The RC440BX is available in two form factors: the Micro-ATX version has three PCI slots and one shared PCI/ISA slot. The full-size ATX version has three PCI slots, three ISA slots, and one shared PCI/ISA slot. The two versions of the RC440BX are otherwise identical.

I've worked quite a bit with the EP-BXT already, and have a very high opinion of it. Although I haven't had a chance to work with the RC440BX yet, I suspect it will also end up being one of my favorite boards. The EP-BXT is a bit less expensive (street price is about ~$150US for the EP-BXT versus ~$200US for the RC440BX), but some will prefer the RC440BX nVidia graphics to the EP-BXT Intel740 graphics, or the RC440BX SoundBlaster audio to the EP-BXT Yamaha audio.

Unfortunately, both of these motherboards have poor distribution. I checked PriceWatch and found a few hits for the EP-BXT and only one for the RC440BX. But it's worth spending some extra time tracking down an EP-BXT, and I suspect the same will prove true for the RC440BX. I'll have detailed reports on the RC440BX once I get some free time to work with it.

* * * * *

The following from Gary M. Berg [Gary_Berg@ibm.net]:

Actually, I prefer what you have now. When I read the notes for Wednesday (for example), I need to peek back to the end of Tuesday to see if you added anything to that since I last read it. All in one page makes it easier to do this.

Yes, it does take longer to download. Actually, I make use of the "Open in New Window" option to navigate to several pages (such as yours and Jerry P's) and let them download in the background while I'm clicking over to another page. Then, after I have all the pages download I sit down and read them.

Okay, thanks. That makes sense. I should have realized this myself, because I have exactly the same problem on Pournelle's site. Tracking down all the new stuff there seems like an Easter egg hunt at times, and I'm always left with the vague feeling that I may have missed something. Actually, I was kind of hoping that people would prefer the way I'm doing things now, because doing daily pages would be more work for me. Not so much in creating the pages themselves as maintaining the links. Your message is the first I've received about this. It'll be interesting to see if anyone prefers the idea of daily pages.

 


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Tuesday, February 23, 1999

The following exchange with Bruce Denman mentions Tom's Hardware and got me to thinking. Actually, I'm seriously considering opening a new site devoted to hardware reviews, advice, and so on. It would have absolutely no advertising, and would be completely user-supported. A lot of it would be open to the public, but I'd also offer memberships on a subscription basis. Members would have access to the members-only areas, would have first access to stuff before it was posted a week or a month later in the public areas, would be able to post (versus just read) to the forums, etc.

But in order to do something like that, I'd have to have some assurance that it would pay its own way. Realistically, it would have to generate a minimum gross of $100,000/year to start in order to pay for the staffing and other costs involved. With something like this, a business school concept called Price Elasticity of Demand is a major factor. In other words, setting the annual subscription fee is key. If I could get X number of subscribers at $30/year, I'd have to get 3X at $10/year to break even. Actually, I'd need a bit more than 3X to account for the additional administrative load in handling three times the number of subscribers.

So the question becomes, can I get 10,000 subscribers at $10/year, or would I be better off aiming for 3,333 subscribers at $30/year, or even 2,000 subscribers at $50/year? What do you think? Would you be willing to pay anything at all for member-level access to such a site. What would you want to see on that site? What could I do to differentiate the site and make it useful, and worth paying for? If you're willing to take a few minutes to tell me what you think, I'd appreciate it.

* * * * *

This follow-up on cookies from Bruce Denman [bdenman@FTC-I.NET]:

Howdy once again.

A quick observation/comment. I swapped hard disks and am now a running relatively clean copy of Win98. Loaded Cookie Crusher 2.01 again and deleted all old cookies but a few known ones (microsoft, abcnews, msnbc; etc.). Will see if Cookie Crusher runs stable for awhile...

Anyway; after deleting the junk cookies I fired up DUN and MSIE 4 and went to

http://www.tomshardware.com

It immediately stopped a total of 33 cookies from being set. I repeated the experiment and it caught 32 the second time. There were at least three were different cookies; the others might well have just been retries. All were categorized as "site tracking."

Duh....Am I being paranoid? <chortle>. Sure points out the silliness that is going around (and abuse too). Cheers....

Bruce
bdenman@ftc-i.net
http://web/infoave.net/~bdenman

ps: no eudora (yet) on this system; so clicking your link brought up outlook express. hope it does not have weird formatting or some such.

I kind of figured that a clean install might clear up the problems you were having with Cookie Crusher. That's a pretty well-known product, and I'd be surprised if it had bugs that would cause problems as serious as those you described earlier. Of course, with Windows one never knows what interactions are going on between products.

As far as Tom's Hardware, it is an advertising supported site, so I'm not surprised that it's cookie heaven there. The man gets a half million page reads a day, and I've never been able to figure out why. Surely I can't be the only one who sees at least the appearance of a conflict of interest in a site that purports to offer unbiased reviews of products and yet accepts advertising. And we're not talking about trivial amounts of money, either. Mr. Pabst apparently pays employees from that advertising revenue, and I believe someone told me that he was opening a testing lab. I have the same problem with AnandTech.

* * * * *

And this follow-up from Bruce Denman:

> I kind of figured that a clean install might clear up the problems you were having with Cookie Crusher...

Yes. grrrr. Windows on my regular drive (2.5GB Maxtor) usually has few problems. Its a Win95 install upgraded to Win98 last summer....installing Cookie Crusher caused a definite burp. My spare 1GB Seagate has a fairly fresh install with Win98 upgrade over fresh Win95/OSR2 install and Cookie Crusher seems content with it for now. I usually experiment with my 1GB since installing/uninstalling junk tends to cause problems. (its been redone a couple times). Over time it would appear that my main load has become gunked up. I was hoping to get a new (bigger) drive first before I had to do that.

I agree with you on the journalistic veracity...I would think it tough to take money from company x and then be critical of them or their product. Makes you wonder. And yes, I did see Dr. Pabst's that he is opening a major lab soon. Time will tell. Later

I'm not surprised that you need to strip Win9x down to bare metal periodically. I've been running Windows NT almost exclusively since version 3.5 shipped. I keep a couple of Win9x boxes around the house for testing, doing screen shots for books, etc., but I can't imagine actually using it as my day-to-day operating system.

As far as Tom's Hardware and ads, I always think of that fundamental precept of Roman law, cui bono (who benefits?). As regular readers of my Daynotes column know, I'm pretty free with my criticisms. I don't go out of my way to find bad products and trash them in print, but neither do I hesitate to point out bad things. I'd like to think that if I had advertisers I could remain completely objective, but I can't imagine that that would be the case.

* * * * *

I've gotten a bunch of replies about the page-a-day versus page-a-week question. The first is from Bruce Denman:

I vote for you to keep your layout as is. I do not think your download times are excessive...and my norm connection speed is 26,400.

Bruce
bdenman@ftc-i.net
http://web.infoave.net/~bdenman

Thanks. I've done everything I can think of to reduce download times, including pretty much eliminating graphics, making each day a separate table, etc. But the reality is that by the end of the week, my Daynotes page is going to take a minute and a half or so to download, just because there's a lot of text in it.

* * * * *

And this from Alberto S. Lopez:

Good Afternoon!

I E-Mailed you last week regarding issues with a PC that would not boot past the memory count. I have not had a chance to implement your suggestions, but I wanted to thank you for answering me as quickly as you did. Again, Thank You.

As far as the format you have for your Day Notes, I think it is fine. Who cares how long it takes to Load? As far as I am concerned, having the WEEK'S DISCUSSION, on the same page is great. That way I don't feel like I maybe missed something that you wrote on another day, on some other page...

It it ain't broke...

Have a FANTASTIC Day,

Alberto S. Lopez
alopez@att.net
http://www.oasisconsulting.com

Thanks. Your opinion about the weekly format seems to be shared by all. Good luck with the NT box.

* * * * *

And this from Wesley Moore:

I'm another who found your site from Pournelle's and found reason to make it a regular stop. I like your style, writing and site building, and while I don't always agree with you, I don't expect to and why should you care? I haven't found two people yet who agree on everything and don't think I want to, it would be too weird.

I also am a fan of "Buffy" and I find it interesting that the show attracts a diversity of fans. I would certainly not have expected Dr. Pournelle to be one before he mentioned it on his site.

I don't think you should change your daynotes layout to a daily, and I like your sprinkling mail excerpts in. It really doesn't take that long to d/l, especially if you turn images off. Hey, once you've seen the images on a regular stop, why load them up each time? It helps that I'm using Opera and it's ridiculously easy to toggle images off or on.

I know you don't have much time and don't want to casually change e-mail apps, but you might sometime try one I found that seems pretty nice called pmmail98. It started out as an OS2 app and has grown to excompass other platforms. A few handy things is it stores mail in text readable form in individual folders for each account, supports multiple accounts, and has executibles for Warp and Win 95/98 that live in the same installed directory, so your mail is accesible from whatever OS you boot. Don't know if it has an NT flavor yet, but the company has a Web site at

http://www.southsoft.com

in case you're interested. And I think that's enough babbling for now.

Wesley Moore
zmoores@vsta.com
http://www.vsta.com/~zmoores/index.html

Thanks for the kind words and the comments. You're by no means alone in finding my site from Dr. Pournelle's. I'd guess fully 10% of my regular readers found my site by following a link from Jerry's. I do like Buffy.

It's well-written, well-acted, and surprisingly complex for a TV show. I mean, there are Good Good Guys, Bad Good Guys, Good Bad Guys, and Bad Bad Guys. I like women who stand up for themselves, and that's certainly the case there. My wife, who is a librarian, likes the show for obvious reasons. How many other TV shows have a librarian who goes out and kicks butt?

And you're right about changing email applications. If there's one thing that I don't change lightly, it's my email. I'm quite satisfied with Outlook 98. It's not the most powerful mailer I've used (that honor goes to Pegasus Mail in spades), but it does what I need to do and integrates PIM functionality. I've also used Eudora Pro, and I can't figure out why it's as popular as it is. It's neither as powerful as Pegasus nor as convenient as Outlook 98. I've been on the Internet since about 1987, and I've probably tried at least a dozen mailers during that time. For me, at least, Outlook 98 is Good Enough.

* * * * *

And this from Bo Leuf:

Just thinking out loud <clicketyclick>...

Should you decide to use page-a-day format, it might be worth your while to do an indirection system, something like:

1. Each page named according to date (YYYYMMDD.html comes to mind :), with links to preceding and succeeding day. These links never change.

2 A "current day" referral page with no content except links to: (today), (yesterday), and whatever else seems relevant. The (today) and (yesterday) links are then updated forward each day to the current content pages. The (today) link could be echoed in a META-refresh tag, so that people who use a constant bookmark can let the page load in background and after say 5 seconds be autoforwarded to the current page.

Actually, you could use this for the page-a-week system too.

For an example of a working referral page, see my

http://www.leuf.org/sff.htm

(I at one point moved the original into a subdirectory).

Bo Leuf bo@leuf.com
Leuf fc3 Consultancy
http://www.leuf.com/

Yep, that would all make sense if I went to a page-per-day format. But I don't think I'm going to. I've gotten a dozen or so responses already, and going to a page-per-day format has gotten zero votes so far.

Thanks for the suggestions, though.

* * * * *

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

Like Gary Berg, I prefer the weekly over daily pages. I use IE to 'subscribe' to your site, and the new system of 'currentweek' and 'lastweek' works wonderfully! No more changing the subscription URL every week.

Another factor making weekly pages better for me, is that there are some weeks when, for several days in a row, I'm too busy to read. The weekly pages let me catch up late in the week without missing anything, whereas with a daily page and using 'subscriptions', I'd have to go online and manually retrieve the days I missed. Download time is really not a factor for me, since it's a subscription that I view offline.

I must be in a minority on this subscription business, as I never read of anyone else employing it, but I decided some time ago, that it was a good way to shave some time off the day: waiting on a page to load while surfing online IS time lost.

I have another IE quirk to add to the list. Ever since I upgraded to IE4, when I opened a downloaded subscription by clicking on it in the 'manage subscriptions' window, it opened that page in the first occasion of IE that I had opened. Starting suddenly last week, it now opens pages in the LAST occurrence of IE that I have opened. This is ridiculous. There should be some control over this behavior. It would be best if it opened pages in a new window, instead of preempting a window already in use, but that is not an option in the 'manage subscriptions' window, even with a right click of the mouse.

The New York Times Quick News page at

http://www.nytimes.com/yr/mo/day/late/index.html

still dials up my modem by itself every 20 minutes then leaves the connection hanging on, if I leave it open in a browser window. I do that accidentally sometimes. This is another procedure over which there should be some control; it occurs even if I'm set to 'work offline'.

And on the video vs. film discussion, NYTimes reports today that digital projector technology is now good enough to replace film as the medium of distribution for theater exhibition. Hollywood sources were quoted as saying there is no longer a discernable difference between film and video projection in side-by-side comparisons, except that film had "that jittery movement and the electronic one didn't". Having worked on a television series that brought me close to the movie industry for a number of years, I can attest that theater exhibitors are just waiting on the edge of their seats to jump at this when it comes. They want to be able to use computers to automate the downlinking of their movies from satellite, just like local TV stations dial in network and syndicated fare from satellite these days, instead of 'bicycling' tapes around the country as was done in the old days before satellites, and which is still essentially the method used by Hollywood to get their films out to the movie theaters.

In those older days of TV talk shows like Mike Douglas, Merv Griffin, and Dinah Shore, the same program was not seen by everyone across the country on the same day. Instead, about 20 markets saw a show, then those tapes were rotated to another 20 markets, and that continued until all stations in the country had seen those programs. Today, the tapes are gone, and Oprah, Rikki Lake, and the like, are most often picked up directly from satellite on one of many feeds provided throughout the day.

Like the earlier days of television, so it is now with movies. Lots of smaller towns have to wait a few weeks, while limited numbers of prints are sent first to the big cities in order to maximize the impact of advertising in the places where there is likely to be the biggest return. But all that will end when movies are sent by satellite, instead of film--and a lot of film and shipping costs will be saved, too.

We really do live in an incredible age.

I think Microsoft blew it in naming subscriptions. Until I installed IE5, I thought subscriptions were related to channels and push technology. I had no interest in that, so I didn't pay any attention to subscriptions. I suspect many other people assumed the same thing, because Microsoft no longer calls it "subscriptions" in IE5. It's now "off-line browsing," which got my attention immediately.

I'm not surprised that digital is coming to the fore in traditional movie theatres now. Like television, movies use relatively low picture quality compared to still photography. Stringing together frames at 24 or 30 per second overcomes minor defects in the individual images, so I guess digital is good enough for movies, although it's still not ready for prime-time in still photography for other than very specialized purposes like news photography. You're not likely, for example, to see Advertising or Industrial photographers move to digital any time soon.

Although movie theatres may cheer the arrival of electronic distribution, it's really another nail in their coffins. Movie theatres, like book and music stores, have traditionally used distribution friction to ensure their profitability. Anything that reduces that distribution friction is not good news for them in the long run. Although I seldom agree with John Dvorak, he has a very good column this week that explains why MP3 is going to kill the traditional music industry. Electronic distribution will ultimately kill the book and movie industries as well. Not the content development portions of them, but the distribution mechanisms.

* * * * *

And this from Tom Syroid Tom Syroid [tsyroid@home.com]:

Add my vote for a weekly Daynotes format.

Obviously, download times are not really a factor for me, but the structure and organization is. I think youíll end up being surprised at just how much more work a one-page-a-day format is, and Iíd prefer to read your words than see your layouts. Donít forget the principle of KISS ó itís applicable here. What you have works. In my opinion, it works well.

Well, the week-per-page format is certainly less work for me. Everyone seems to prefer it, so I'm sticking with it. Everyone wins.

* * * * *

This from Robert Webb [webbr2@nationwide.com]:

As both you and Jerry are found of saying "It is good enough". And I agree with Mr. Berg, I often look back at previous days to remind myself of the current topics.

Thanks. Good Enough is good enough. I think the saying "Perfect is the enemy of good enough" is now attributed to Soviet Admiral Gorshkov, but I'm pretty sure it dates back much further than that. Something tells me that someone will track that down and tell me.

 


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Wednesday, February 24, 1999

Thanks to everyone who emailed me to say that this page was scrolling horizontally. I tried to fix the problem yesterday and publish the changes, but I wasn't able to publish to my server. At first, I thought the problem was at the server, but I was having all kinds of problems getting to anything on the Internet yesterday afternoon, so it appears that either my ISP or the Internet in general was having some problems.

So I'm covered up in mail. I'd thought about staring a separate mail page, but that would give me two pages to keep updated and you two pages to read each day instead of one. The overwhelming concensus seems to be that people want everything in one place. So I'll keep putting reader mail here unless it just become ridiculous.

I finished up one chapter yesterday and got a good start on another. Barbara started feeling ill last night. I'm afraid she may have what I had. When she starts feeling better, I'll have her go over the chapter I just finished in detail before I submit it. And now to see if I can publish this morning...

* * * * *

A followup from Bruce Denman [bdenman@FTC-I.NET]:

> I'm not surprised that you need to strip Win9x down to bare metal periodically....

....I have never run NT. I now use Win98 but have used Win95 in a work environment (I managed a computer store in Florence SC for awhile (long story) and it had a Novell setup with Win95 on the workstations). Before that I used Win 3.1/DOS before that 20 plus years on puters; big and small (but am not programmer). Anyway, early on, I learned to either do or recommend an annual install of Win95. Appears Win98 also needs it. I probably should learn something about NT; that is the future it would appear.

> I keep a couple of Win9x boxes around the house for testing, doing screen shots for books, etc., but I can't imagine actually using it as my day-to-day operating system.

....I too cringe on using Win95/98 as a day-to-day perating system for a small business. Beside the stability problems, backup/restore is not for the faint of heart nor novices. My wife's office (property management) went to Win95 in January (two systems networked peer-to-peer) The owner's son did upgrade. I am waiting for shoe to drop (he lives/works 50 miles away). They do data backup on tape but the potential for major system problems/crash is still there. (Before the upgrade I provided the general support on the old system as an unpaid resource; now I won't touch it).

> I'd like to think that if I had advertisers I could remain completely objective, but I can't imagine that that would be the case.

....Mental chinese wall? Guess it depends on dependence and need. The appearance of conflict of interest would still be there even if one attempts to be totally honest.

One last item. Your comment on MSIE 5beta; yestersay I thought why not. Came to find out they took the download off the update page. They are now taking paid orders for the final release on CD to be released on Mar 17. Course; the order page says 6 to 8 weeks delivery <g>. 

Well; enough for now. By the way; don't feel you have to respond to all my blatherings...tho it is appreciated.

Thanks. Yes, you really should try NT.  As far as IE5 beta, I'm not surprised they pulled it. They probably don't want people downloading and installing the beta if the release version is going to ship shortly. I expect they'll post the release version for download before long. In the meantime, IE5 beta is working fine for me.

And this follow-up from Bruce:

error: Earlier I said Microsoft is taking orders for the final release on CD to be released on Mar 17 with 6 to 8 weeks delivery."

correction: Make that March 18 and 8 to 10 weeks delivery. Cost is $6.95 plus tax

http://www.microsoft.com/windows/ie/offers/default.asp

Okay. Thanks.

* * * * *

This from Gary M. Berg [Gary_Berg@ibm.net]:

Something in your current view is forcing me to scroll left/right on an 800x600 screen with IE4. It might be your day separator line, but I've not had this problem before.

Hmmm. This doesn't happen to me too often, but when it does it's almost always deeply nested blockquotes that are causing the problem. Ordinarily, I can just call up the page in IE, do a View-Source, scroll Notepad's display all the way over, and then start scrolling down. The line causing the problem normally stands out because it's extremley long in Notepad. I just did that, and can't find an extremely long line. I noticed a couple--most those from people's URLs in their sigs and the embedded references to NY Times URLS, etc.--that were a bit long, but nothing extraordinary. At any rate, I've gone back and put the long URLs on their own lines, so that may fix the problem.

* * * * *

This from Cam Voelker from Waterloo Ontario Canada [cvoelker@ionline.net]:

Greetings,

I have been reading and enjoying your daily reports. I noticed some comments you made in the last several days about pipe smoking and health insurance.

I think you should be happy that there are people in your 'group' whose risk experience is a lot better than yours - otherwise you would be paying even more than you are now.

If the group is too homogeneous isn't it likely to be too small to spread the risks around? Others in your 'group' who think they have or in fact have a better experience - will feel the same way about you as you do about teenage males, women etc.

I think what should be attractive about insurance (quite apart from the business aspects) is that people are able to spread the risk around so that no one is destroyed financially if they suffer from an adverse health episode. If you keep trying to focus the group and exclude those at higher risk - won't you eventually find yourself logically in a group of one - paying your health care costs from your savings and good credit rating?

Health care is a publicly funded program for citizens in Canada. We pay much more in taxes and much much less (in most provinces - no health insurance premiums) in health insurance premiums. All citizens are offered the same levels of service and care, regardless of ability to pay. (To a degree, knowledge and influence can be used to move up in the queue or to access more advanced types of treatment - in the same way these factors would be used by informed American consumers of health care).

I don't want to make judgements about the merits of the two approaches - but the Canadian way is my preference. I prefer health care funded through 'social policy' even if it leads to under-employment of actuaries.

I envy you your pipe smoking. I too smoked a pipe in preference to cigarettes or cigars - for about 20 years. I quit about 10 years ago and still miss the effect of smoking my pipe while trying to create or edit text. Fresh coffee with a pipe was a great pleasure of each day. I find myself attracted to the smell of pipe tobacco and quite repelled by the smell of cigarette smoke. BUT, I do not miss the frequent clearing of my throat before talking that was a routine part of my behaviour as a pipe smoker. (Yes, of course I inhaled)!

If pipe smokers experience the average incidence of cardiovascular disease they may have been at lower risk by virtue of stress tolerance and other personality traits - and the smoking simply moves them back to average. I think pipe smokers are probably more laid back and not your stereotypical Type A's. Finally, I am pretty sure that pipe smokers experience a higher incidence of lip, mouth, and other cancers of the upper airways - than do non pipe smokers and non-smokers.

Still, when I smell good pipe tobacco smoked by someone using a clean pipe - I think the health risks may be a reasonable price to pay for the pleasure.

Cheers

Cam Voelker
Waterloo Ontario Canada
cvoelker@ionline.net

Well, I guess it's a matter of philosophy. I believe that people should get what they pay for and pay for what they get. Medical care should, like anything else, be rationed by market forces. I'd like to drive a Rolls-Royce, but I can't afford one so I make do with my Isuza Trooper. I don't begrudge those who can afford a Rolls-Royce their right to buy one. And the argument that health care is somehow essential and so should be subsidized misses the point. The problem with subsidizing something like medical care is that the demand, although finite in an absolute sense, is effectively unlimited, while resources are very much limited. All that subsidized "universal" health care does is make resource allocation decisions that twist resource delivery in favor of the poor at the expense of the middle- and upper classes, who are ultimately the ones paying for it.

In theory, the idea of universal health insurance coverage is attractive to many people. But in practice, it never works out. Rather than raising the poor and uninsured to the level of the rich and insured, it simply reduces the quality of care available to everyone to a least-common-denominator level. We see that happening now in the US, where women who have just given birth are being sent home early and against their doctors' advice because insurance no longer covers a longer stay. These are women that have medical insurance, and would formerly have stayed in hospital for two or three days, but are now being forced out in one day.

There's a good reason why people from all over the world, including Canada, come to the US for health care if they can afford it. The level of care available to those who can pay for it is still by far the highest in the world. But the evil "if everyone can't have it, no one can have it" mindset damages that. Equipment or drugs that are too expensive for general use will no longer be developed because there will be no one to pay for them. In the past, this stuff trickled down. The wealthy and insured paid the development costs. As those costs were amortized, the technology became cheaper and more widely available. But the way things are going now, companies won't risk the venture funding needed to make breakthroughs because they won't be able to earn back those costs. That damages the structure of the medical care system, and it's all due to socialized medicine.

As far as grouping people for insurance, that is the entire heart of the matter. If you don't group people into reasonable risk-groups, a process called adverse selection occurs. Assume, for example, that life insurance was sold without consideration for sex, age, or health. In order to make money, the insurance company would have to set premiums at a level that covered their losses and administrative costs. But under your system, a 25 year old woman in good health would pay exactly the same premium as an elderly man with severe health problems. What happens, of course, is that the elderly man buys as much insurance as he can afford at a rate that's being subsidized by the young woman. But she's no fool. She understands that she's being grossly overcharged, and so either goes without insurance entirely or else buys insurance from another company that does recognize that she should pay a lower premium.

My objection to their charging me a higher rate for smoking a pipe, grouping me in with cigarette smokers, is that pipe smokers demonstrably (by every study ever done) live longer than even non-smokers and have fewer and less severe health problems than do non-smokers. You are correct that this is probably because people who smoke pipes are classic laid-back B-type personalities, but the fact remains that overall pipe smokers should get a better rate than non-smokers. And, yes, pipe smokers do have a higher incidence of mouth cancer than non-smokers, but pipe smoker's lower incidence of such things as heart attacks, strokes, etc. more than makes up for that.

* * * * *

This from Dave Farquhar [farquhar@lcms.org]:

I'd like to think there'd be a market for such a hardware review site as you describe. Maybe I'm just being a grumpy old man here, but I liked Tom's Hardware a whole lot better way back when it first started out. I think it did have a little advertising even then, but we were talking one or two ads on the site, and it was just one guy with FrontPage. It seemed more geniune then. ("In my day, we didn't have 47 blinky ads flashing at us -- it was blue text on a white screen talking about 83 MHz bus speeds and we liked it!")

It's possible to accept advertising and stay objective, but you really have to work at it. The key at every publication I wrote for back when I was a practicing journalist was keeping the staff separated. The advertising folks had very little or nothing to do with the editorial folks. The advertisers never talked to anyone in editorial, and the culture always dictated that the ad people and the writers didn't talk, and the ad people only talked to the designers to give them the specs for the ads they'd have to design around.

But a one-person operation can't have that culture, and I'd have to say I wonder sometimes about the objectivity even of print computer magazines. Frequently they seem to do more for Microsoft's PR than Microsoft's own PR team -- I still remember a PC/Computing cover that read "Windows 97! Office 97! The two most significant breakthroughs since the invention of the PC!" Come on... These judgments were based on beta code, and as we all know, Office 97 was an evolutionary improvement over Office 95 (but with some major issues), and of course, Windows 97 became Windows 98, which was also just an evolutionary improvement.

Now, whether enough people would pay $20-$50 a year to make the thing worthwhile, and whether the thing would still leave you enough time to write books, are two very big, very tough questions. Would people prefer just to buy a copy of the upcoming "Good Enough for Chaos Manor" book every year instead? There aren't many success stories of pay sites on the Web. I paid for a subscription to Jerry Pournelle's site, but I have to admit, I didn't expect it to make it, and as much as I hate to say it, if money was Jerry's #1 priority, I doubt he'd be doing it. He'd make more writing books that people pay for -- or doing anything but writing, seeing as most writers make a pittance. There's a reason why I have a journalism degree and I fix computers full-time...

I'd like to think there's a market, too, but I'm not sure there is. At least not on a subscription basis. As the US government discovered a long time ago with withholding, it's a lot easier to get money if you make the process essentially invisible than if people actually have to cough it up. Advertising-based sites work because their funding is invisible to the user. We all pay a hidden "advertising tax" every time we buy something. Then we get "free" access to stuff, whether it's Tom's Hardware or network television shows. So, in essence, companies make us pay for the privilege of watching their commercials.

But with that comes biased material. Unless and until one realizes that the "content" is just the cheese in the trap, one might believe that the content is the purpose and the commercials are just a distraction. The reality, of course, is that the commercials are the purpose and the content is simply a means to an end.

And that's why I believe you're wrong about firewalling advertising from editorial. Oh, I know that many organizations make an effort to do that. Jerry frequently mentions BYTE and the way they completely isolated him from advertiser pressure. And I'm sure he's right in a direct tactical sense. If Jerry had something bad to say about the latest Frammus, I'm sure that he could say it without worrying about what would happen when BYTE got a letter of protest from Frammus, Inc.

But in a larger, strategic sense, no advertising-supported endeavor can long survive if it does not place the needs of advertisers first. The needs of consumers must take a far-distant second, if that. Perhaps that's why BYTE folded. Maybe they made the mistake of thinking that they could place the needs of consumers above those of advertisers.

If I start up such a web site, I want to be accountable to my readers, and only to my readers. As anyone familiar with public television will tell you, very few people voluntarily support something if there's no good reason to do so. So if I am going to make a subscription site work, it'd have to be by giving people a strong incentive to become paying members. If micromoney ever becomes ubiquitous, that'd work, too. Most people wouldn't mind in the slightest having five cents a day or a penny per page or whatever deducted from their wallets invisibly.

Actually, micromoney would be the best method, because one would get immediate feedback. With annual subscriptions, if you're doing something wrong the first real sign is when people don't renew their subscriptions in droves. With micromoney you get that feedback on a daily basis.

* * * * *

This from Tim Werth [timothy.werth@eds.com]:

Just my $.02 but I think you would have many more people willing to subscribe to a hardware site @ $10/year versus $30. My rationale is that I had no problem sending Jerry Pournelle $10 when he asked for it last year to help sustain his web site. Whereas @ $30 a lot more people would simply read what is easily available. Even though $30 isn't even the cost of a night out anymore (unless your wife/date doesn't mind Taco Bell and a dollar theater).

The other thought is that there are already several hardware sites on the web, Tom's, Anandtech, Sharky's, etc. They mostly concentrate on the latest and greatest thing that can run 3D games the fastest. Usually when I put a machine together I am looking for the most stable and compatible m/board, processor, video card, etc. that gives me the most bang for the buck. For instance I recently but together a system around a P5A m/board from Asus and used an AMD K6-2 350 and a Matrox G200 Millennium video card. I've had good luck in the past w/AMD chips and Matrox cards and the fact that I don't play many 3D games. Therefore I was willing to sacrifice some performance (floating point w/the chip and 3D w/the video) and go w/a cheaper chip and video card from companies that I've had good luck with before. As Pournelle says, good enough is good enough.

So to sum up what I'm saying is if you're interested in putting up a hardware site I think the "Good Enough" aspect is what is not already being covered on the web. Besides, that is what most people are actually looking to build anyway so that would be a good niche to shoot for. Anyway, you asked for it so there is my $.02. Talk to you later.

Thanks. I suspect the reason that these sites concentrate on 3D and gaming is because that's what a lot of people want to read about. As Willie Sutton never said, "I rob banks because that's where the money is." But the Good Enough issue is something I hadn't though about.

* * * * *

The following from Warrick M. Locke [warlocke@mail.wf.net]:

Add my vote to continue the weekly format.

As usual, I do have a suggestion...

Move the <Sunday> <Monday> ..etc links so they appear on the first load in 800x600. That way us codgers with antedeluvian hardware don't have to click the down-arrow to get to the link.

Thanks. It's not just people running 800X600, either. I run 1024X768, and I can't see past about Tuesday or Wednesday. I've put a horizontal menu at the very top that should solve the problem.

* * * * *

This from Tom Syroid:

[...]

As far as you idea of a hardware site, I support you 100% ó providing you keep a structured, useable design like you do now (which I take for granted would be the case, but I thought it important to add). The only reason I donít send Pournelle subscription money is that it is a ratís nest to find anything on. There is literally gobs of worthy information there, but as you and I both have remarked on occasion, it is not readily accessible except if you have 3 hours to dig ó and even then there are no guarantees. (Iím still hunting for something I remember seeing 3 or 4 months ago) If he ever decides to take the time to clean up his design a bit, heíll get my money.

How much would I be willing to pay? That very much depends on how good and relevant the content is to my own interests. $30/yr goes without saying. For $50 it had better be good ó consistently good. Cuz thatís about $75 CDN.

I think itís do-able, but youíll need help. Good quality help. And time. Lotís of that too. How many books do you have lined up over the next 2 years??

Tom Syroid
tsyroid@home.com
http://members.home.net/the.syroids

You're right that such a site would be very labor intensive. I couldn't do it all myself, which is one of the reasons why I mentioned that it'd need to generate at least $100K/year gross to start. I have four books currently under contract with O'Reilly, including the one I'm working on now, the book with Pournelle, and two W2K books.

* * * * *

The following from Dennis Loretz:

I am interested in home networking. I work in the Air Force, but not in a computer field. I am, however, the local "LAN administrator" and computer "geek" for my small (22 pc) computer-dependent office. My experiences are limited in the field of networking; I can easily setup a Win95 machine to log onto an NT network. But I am really getting interested expanding; setting up NT servers. ANYWAY . . .

I recently built a pc for my son (p166, 32mb RAM, 2gb hd, Win95 OSR2, sound, cdrom), and was thinking about setting up NT server 4/5/2000 on mine (AMD K6-2/300, 64mb RAM, 8.4gb hd, Win95 OSR2, sound, cdrom, soon-to-have CDR). I have a pair of ISA 10mb generic NICs, and am looking for a small 4-port hub with UTP cabling. I have a few pieces laying around for another pc (486 DX2/66), just haven't put it together. Maybe a BDC? Does this config sound reasonable for a beginner? Thanks for any help!!

Sincerely,

Dennis Loretz

Loretzd@gte.net

http://home1.gte.net/loretzd/index.htm

Yes, that sounds fine. Windows NT Server 4 will run happily on your main system. In fact, with 64 MB, it'll probably "feel" a little faster than Win95. If you don't care about NTFS security and so on, you can just install Windows NT to your existing FAT partitions, assuming they're FAT16 rather than FAT32. The 486/66 is marginal for NT, at least as an interactive system. But it'll do fine as a BDC, and could also be converted to a network "resource server" which you could use to share hard disk space, share Internet access via a proxy server like WinGate, etc.

With 100BaseT getting cheap now, I'd be inclined to go with 100BaseT stuff. Make sure the cables you get are Category 5 (rated for 100 Mbps use) whether or not you start with 10BaseT or 100BaseT. Small 100BaseT hubs aren't that much more expensive than 10BaseT hubs nowadays. You can find four- and five-port 100BaseT hubs for $50 or $75 and eight-port ones for $150. Make sure to get enough ports. Four- and five-port versions are normally very close in price, and that extra port is worthwhile. Consider going to an eight-port version if there's any chance you'll ever want more than four or five ports. If you decide to use your existing 10BaseT adapters with a Fast Ethernet hub, make sure it's a "10/100" hub rather than a "100 only" hub. The latter work only with 100BaseT cards, while the former automatically detect 10 versus 100 and run the port at the proper speed, allowing you to mix and match 10 and 100 cards.

* * * * *

Late Morning: Well, it took more than 15 minutes to publish this morning, but it did eventually publish. I wasn't sure if I'd fixed the horizontal scrolling problem which wasn't showing up on my 1024X768 monitor, so I tried downloading the page on a system that runs 800X600. It was still scrolling. I finally tracked the problem down to a long NY Times URL. I hate to edit reader mail in even minor ways, but I decided it was justified to change that message slightly by embedding the URL into the description rather than leaving it visible as plain text. And that solved the problem. The URL was simply too long in text form to display properly on an 800X600 screen.

And Internet Explorer 5.0 is about to drive me mad. The first bad thing I noticed versus IE4 is that the auto-complete doesn't work the same way. For example, with IE4 when I wanted to visit Pournelle's web site, I could just type "www.jer" in the address field. After a brief pause, IE4 would fill in http://www.jerrypournelle.com and I could just hit enter and go to the site. With IE5, it doesn't work this way. When I type in "www.jer", IE5 displays a drop-down list of sites that match the fragment I entered. I then have to move the mouse to the one I want and click on it. This is significantly less convenient than the IE4 method. In fact, it's useless. Microsoft still calls it "auto-complete" but what it really is is "auto-list".

But that's not what's driving me mad about IE5. The problem is this: I open a site, say www.microsoft.com in the first instance of IE5. I navigate that site and find a page I want to keep up for the time being. Then I decide to visit another web site, so I open another instance of IE5 and enter the address for that new site. But IE5 displays that new site in the first instance of the program, rather than the new instance. The new instance always displays my start page, which happens to be the home page of this site on the local copy. And it doesn't matter how I open the new instance. Whether I double click the IE5 icon on the desktop or choose File - New - Window from within IE5, it always opens the new site in the old window. That's just about enough to make the product unusable for me, and I can't find anywhere in Tools - Internet Options or elsewhere to change this behavior.

Well, now it's time to try publishing this. It's about 11:45 a.m. EST. If I had a tough time getting it published earlier this morning, it's liable not to work at all now. But I'll give it a shot.

 


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Thursday, February 25, 1999

I was able to publish normally yesterday afternoon. It took a bit longer than it usually does when I publish in the morning, but not excessively so. I'm beginning to suspect that the time-out problems I sometimes experience while publishing have more to do with the current activity level on the Internet than anything else. There doesn't appear to be any way to modify time-out settings in the local copy of FrontPage. There may be such a setting on the Server Extensions, but I haven't checked the docs for them to find out. Even if there is, I'm not sure I could talk my web service provider into changing them.

And there's been some discussion about whether and how much reader reviews on Amazon.com affect book sales. Common sense says that a lot of good reviews should help a book sell better, but I'm not sure how much of a factor, if any, they really play. Some books have a lot of mediocre and bad reader reviews and still appear to sell well, but a lot of good reviews can't hurt. At least I suppose that's the case. There are currently four reviews, all five stars, posted for my latest book, Windows NT TCP/IP Network Administration, but the more the better. If you've read it and would be willing to take a few minutes to write a reader review of it on Amazon.com, please click here.  Please note that I'm not trying to stuff the ballot box. If you haven't read the book, please don't post a review as a favor to me or anything.

* * * * *

This follow-up from Dennis Loretz:

Appreciate the reply. Perhaps the 486 will work better as a file server/answering machine as you mentioned. Maybe start collecting parts for a low-end Pentium system in the future for a BDC/file server. Will have to check with father-in-law; he has been bitten by the computer bug for awhile now and is always scrounging parts . . . :-)

Current harddrive configuration is: 4gb FAT32 (C:\), 2gb FAT 32 (D:\), and another 2gb FAT 32 (E:\) = 8.4gb. C: loaded with 95 OSR2 and D: primarily misc storage. E: left open for installing NT server or workstation, for dual boot system. PLANNED. Haven't the guts to go ahead with the install.

I did look up dual booting in the Microsoft Support Online database though, and didn't find much about general installation FAQs. Try and see, I guess!!

I have enjoyed the last few nights browsing your website. Well written; not too technical but won't bore me to sleep either! I like the "Daynotes", let's me review at my own pace. As my Internet time is spotty (wife, two little kids, and a new puppy) I have begun coveting my time in front of the "blue screen"!!

Thanks,

Dennis Loretz
loretzd@gte.net
http://home1.gte.net/loretzd/index.htm

I'd think twice before I built a low-end Pentium system, unless you'll be building it exclusively from scrounged parts. If you have to buy stuff, for not much more money, you can put together a much more capable system around a Celeron/300A, which you can overclock to 450 MHz if you're ambitious.

As far as dual-booting, you're going to have a problem with FAT32. Installing WinNT as dual-boot on an existing Win9x system running FAT16 is a no-brainer. You just install WinNT, and it configures dual-boot automatically. With FAT32, the problem is that WinNT can't see the partition and so can't install dual-boot.

I dislike FAT32. It's noticeably slower than FAT16, and the only two problems it solves aren't really very big problems anyway. FAT32 lets you use larger partitions and avoids wasting disk space with large clusters that result in a lot of slack space. But for most people, using multiple 2 GB partitions is a better idea than using one huge partition, and with disk space at a couple cents a megabyte, slack space is a minor consideration.

* * * * *

This from Wesley Moore:

Hi again

Re: your stated interest in digital camers and specifically the Sony Mavica's.

I saw an ad in a magazine that said they have new models that support 1024x768 res jpegs and vga res bitmaps, not to mention voice annotation and mpeg recording capability. These url's are essentially the brochure pages on Sony's web site. You might check it out when you have time. Noted, it says the cameras "display" images at 1024x768, but not that they record at a higher native resolution, and they can alternatively store images as uncompressed bitmaps for better quality, but only as vga(which to me means 640x480). I wonder if you could get an eval unit or two? The "91" is the extra feature model, natch. I am sort of motivated to send you this 'cause I too am interested in these camera's, but it's not likely I can get hold of them for evaluation and I think I trust your judgement in matters photographic.

Mavica FD-81

Mavica FD-91

Wesley Moore
zmoores@vsta.com
http://www.vsta.com/~zmoores/index.html

I looked at the specs on the FD-81 and FD-91 models, and I would indeed like to get evaluation units of them. But Sony is so large that even finding a contact person there is nearly impossible. I actually spent an hour trying to do that, sending emails to various addresses from which I never heard back, and bouncing around in their automated attendant system. If anyone knows of a good contact person there, I'd appreciate the information, but I simply don't have the time to spend on tracking one down.

With digital cameras, naturally enough I suppose, people tend to fixate on the inherent resolution. That's important, certainly, but just as important is the optical quality of the lens itself. On the FD-71, Sony uses a decent glass zoom lens that provides about 10X optical zoom. I've seen many other cameras that use cheap lenses more suitable for an inexpensive point-and-shoot camera, and attempt to make up for the lack of decent optics with "digital zoom". The problem with digital zoom is that it's not really zoom at all. All they're doing is taking the existing image and making it larger, filling in pixels for which they have no information with interpolated pixels. Back when I was building telescopes, we called this "empty magnification". In other words, making the image larger, but without any additional information.

In short, I'd rather have a Sony that offers 1024X768 inherent resolution and is equipped with a good lens that has a wide optical zoom range than a camera with somewhat higher inherent resolution that's equipped with an inferior lens.

* * * * *

I just spent fifteen minutes of my time to correct a 45 cent billing error on my cell phone bill. I use GTE Wireless, and they seem to have a problem billing me for the correct amount. It may be coincidental, but the mistake is always in their favor, and always by a small amount. The deal I have bundles in some unrelated services, including the Mr. Rescue roadside assistance program. A couple of months ago, they increased the price of that service from $2.50 to $2.95 per phone. They billed me the $2.95 on each of the two lines that's included in the deal, but credited me only $2.50 per line, leading to a bill that was $0.90 too high. I called them last month and they said they'd fixed it for that and all subsequent bills.

When I got this month's bill, I noticed that it was for $44.87 rather than the correct $44.43. That sounded suspiciously like they'd failed to issue a $0.45 credit on one of the lines (with the minor difference being due to taxes charged and credited), so I looked at the bill. Sure enough, they'd credited me the full $2.95 on my first phone, but only $2.50 on the second. I called them up and they fixed it for this bill, again claiming that it'd be fixed for good. We'll see.

But what I wonder is whether this is really unintentional or whether they do it on purpose. Overcharging by $0.45 or $0.90 may not seem like much, but I wonder how many people just pay the damned bill rather than wasting their time to fix an error of a few cents. But if that error is on 100,000 people's bills, that means that GTE is overcharging by at least $45,000 per month or $540,000 a year, which goes straight to their bottom line. If it's on a million bills, that adds $5.4 million to their profits. I wonder.

 


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Friday, February 26, 1999

I sent another chapter off to O'Reilly first thing this morning, and will dive into the next chapter as soon as I finish publishing this.

I'm doing some internal reorganization of the site, so if you notice any broken bookmarks, that's probably why. Right now, I have probably 200 files or more in my main folder, including close to fifty Daynotes weekly files, many images, etc. I'm gradually creating a folder structure and moving files to folders appropriate to their purpose. I say gradually, because I don't want to have to republish my entire web all at one time. Publishing is iffy enough when there are only a few files to be updated. But I'll leave the commonly accessed files--the home page, thisweek.html, lastweek.html, etc. in the home folder, so most bookmarks should continue to work normally.

And in the course of doing this I've found yet another bug in FrontPage. The Timestamp bot has two settings. One causes FrontPage to display the date the file was last edited manually, but ignores automatic edits such as link updates when files are moved. The second causes FrontPage to display the date the file was last changed in any manner, manually or automatically. I have the timestamp bots on all my pages set to the first option. But it doesn't work properly. Some, perhaps all, of my pages are displaying an updated date when all that's happened is that they've been updated automatically to reflect a new folder location. Oh well.

And I have my weekly network backup and other administrative stuff to get done. As the penguin says, it's back to work for me...

 

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Saturday, February 27, 1999

Well, it finally happened. I tend to put off going to the barber, particularly when I'm busy, which I usually am these days. My barber doesn't take appointments, and I sometimes have to sit for an hour waiting. So I seldom get my hair cut more than about once every three months, and it's sometimes four. My hair is curly, so it doesn't get in my eyes or anything. It just gets thicker and thicker. When my hair starts to get very long, Barbara frequently urges me to visit the barber by telling me that if I don't she'll cut it herself. The other night, I told her to go ahead and do it. She did, and she did a pretty good job of it, I think.

We went to dinner last night at a little Chinese place in a strip shopping center not far from our home. When we arrived, there was a parking place right out front. We'd pulled partially into it before we noticed a couple of ducks (Mallards, I think) nestled up against the concrete log that blocked the parking place from the sidewalk. They were a male and a female, obviously a mating pair, and we at first thought that one of them had been injured. We were going to call the Wildlife Rescue folks, but noticed the restaurant staff watching us and the ducks. We went in, and they told us that the ducks were regular visitors. They come by every evening for a handout of fried rice.

I woke up early this morning, so I decided to write a brief update here and see what happens when I try to publish before dawn on a Saturday morning. I'll give it a try now.

* * * * *

8:00 a.m. - well, that didn't work very well. FrontPage appeared to be publishing normally, but after it uploaded the pages it sat for several minutes and then timed out, telling me that publishing had not succeeded. I also relearned a FrontPage lesson: never answer Yes to all when FrontPage wants to overwrite or delete files on the server. Actually, I verified each file individually, but I answered Yes to each prompt. That was a mistake. FrontPage told me that I had deleted several images from the Images folder and asked if I wanted to delete them on the server. I didn't think I'd deleted them, but I had been moving stuff around, so I told it to go ahead and delete them from the server. That was a mistake, as I verified later by looking at the pages that contained the images. I copied and pasted them from my backup, so they should be back where they belong when I publish this.

* * * * *

Barbara was terrified last night by the way our younger Border Collie, Duncan, was behaving. He was making hacking sounds and shaking his head. He'd just been outside, and she was afraid he'd gotten a twig lodged in his throat or something. I thought he just had a severe case of hiccoughs, because he was breathing normally, bringing the ball to play, and otherwise seemed normal. Because of Barbara's concern, I even tried the Doglich Maneuver to expel anything he might have caught in his throat. I finally got Barbara to call our friend, Sue Stephens, who is also our vet. Barbara hates to impose on her, but I have no such qualms when the health of my dog is in question.

As it turns out, Duncan (who has allergies) was sneezing. Sue explained that dogs sneeze two ways. First, in a way that pretty much resembles a person sneezing. That we are used to seeing. But Dr. Sue says that dogs also sneeze internally when they're trying to clear their snouts. We'd never seen that before, and that's what Duncan was doing.

 


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Sunday, February 28, 1999

As my long-time readers know, one of my concerns is the perversion of science to suit the goals of the Politically Correct and other know-nothings. Although this should go without saying, it doesn't nowadays: a scientist is an investigator, not an advocate. Terms like "environmentalist scientist" are oxymorons. A scientist has no predetermined notions about how an experiment will (or should) turn out. To a scientist, the purpose of an experiment is to go there and find out, not to "prove" a preconceived belief.

A scientist gathers facts, examines them, and attempts to craft a hypothesis that fits all of the known facts. If a scientist uncovers new facts that do not fit the existing hypothesis, he discards or revises his hypothesis to accommodate the new data. A fact is. A fact speaks for itself. It requires no justification. A fact must be reproducible by others who perform the same experiment. To a scientist, there is no such thing as an inconvenient fact, or one that should be explained away or ignored. Science, then, is based upon reason and logic.

But pseudo-science is becoming increasingly accepted in the collective consciousness. Worse still, the distinction between science and pseudo-science is becoming blurred. Pseudo-science has always been with us. Alchemy, astrology, numerology, and so on appeal to the credulous. In the past, intelligent, educated people have recognized pseudo-sciences for the frauds that they are. But our schools long ago ceased teaching our children even the rudiments of logic and reasoning, and many (perhaps most) of our newly-minted "scientists" are not scientists at all. Oh, they have degrees in chemistry or physics or biology, they wear white coats, and they work in laboratories, but they're not really scientists at all, any more than astrologers are. Their logic processes are flawed or non-existent. A scientist is a scientist because of the way he thinks, not because of his college degree or his job title.

As an example, I corresponded not long ago with a young man who represented himself to be a scientist, and who was in fact employed by the U.S. government in such a role. During the exchange of emails, I mentioned the famous post hoc ergo propter hoc (after this, therefore because of this) logical fallacy. He had never heard the term. Worse still, he was unfamiliar with the concept itself, which is fundamental to science. I referred him to a web page that explains logical fallacies. Perhaps that will be enough to get him started in the right direction, but I somehow doubt it.

In the current Politically Correct environment, science is under attack. That is so because science concerns itself with facts, and facts are often inconvenient things for those who are pursuing an agenda. Those who are the enemies of science would prefer that it just go away quietly, leaving them free to proliferate their ignorance. But science is strong, so they must instead take measures to kill it or co-opt it. A frontal assault is always costly and uncertain of success. Attack from within is slower, perhaps, but ultimately more certain.

And so we see a two-pronged attack on science. First, attack science through the popular media, by attributing positions to science which no self-respecting scientist holds. See the Junk Science web site for many examples. Second, choke off the flow of new scientists by mandating Politically Correct curricula in science education. Science must ultimately die if there are no new scientists. If this attack on science succeeds, we're destined for a new Dark Age. And right now it looks as though the bad guys are winning.

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Afternoon: Well, I wasn't able to publish this morning's update because my web server is non-responsive. Something tells me I won't have much luck this time, either, but I'll give it a try. I know it's the server itself causing the problem, because I'm able to ping it. The connectivity is fine. It's the server itself that is apparently running so slowly that requests time out. I've mailed BigBiz several times over the last few days, but have yet to hear anything from them. Supposedly, the move from Server01 to Server05 was to have solved the problem. If anything, it's gotten worse.

I've about had it with BigBiz. I plan to move my web site to pair Networks in March, so there may be some disruptions later this month. I'm also having problems with mail being delivered very late or not at all. If you send me mail at my ttgnet.com domain and don't receive a response in a day at most, you can resend it to thompsrb@bellsouth.net. This is actually my wife's POP account, so please don't send stuff there unless it's urgent that I see it quickly.

 

 

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