Week of 3/1/99
Friday, July 05, 2002 08:14
A (mostly) daily
journal of the trials, tribulations, and random observations of Robert
Bruce Thompson, a writer of computer books.
March 1, 1999
This month marks the first anniversary of this web site, and I'm
getting ready to move it to a different web hosting company, probably pair
Networks. I've been with BigBiz.com since the beginning. They did a good
job originally, but I've had nothing but problems with them since the
first of the year.
Yesterday was the final straw. It took me 1.5 hours to publish my
changes. I don't mean that I tried several times over the course of an
hour and a half and finally succeeded, mind you. I mean that I started the
publishing process and it ran constantly for 1.5 hours solid before it
finally finished publishing. Throughout this process, I was constantly
expecting FrontPage to time out on me, but it never did.
I then retrieved the Daynotes page from the server to make sure the
changes had in fact been published. It took literally five minutes to load
the page, and my browser showed throughput of less than 100 bytes/second.
This when I was able to call up pages from other servers with normal
Well, I'll try to publish this now, although I don't have any great
confidence that I'll succeed. Updates may be a little sporadic until I get
my site moved to another service provider. In the interim, I appreciate
you bearing with me.
And then I'd better get back to work on my current chapter...
March 2, 1999
I've heard from many of you to tell me that my pages are loading very
slowly. In one instance, someone called up my current daynotes page from a
bookmark, watched the blank screen for a minute or more, and finally
decided to go take a shower. When he returned from his shower, the screen
was still blank. He was about to close the window when the page finally
finished loading. It had taken, by his estimate, at least 15 minutes. I
myself timed the page load the other day, and it took 8.5 minutes. This is
I'm keeping these updates very short for a while because I'm having so
much trouble getting them published up to my server. I'm also having some
trouble getting email, so if you've mailed me and haven't gotten a
response, please send it again.
I signed up yesterday morning with pair
Networks to host my web site. At the end of the sign-up process they
told me that they'd create my account within two to three business days.
At that point, I'll have a web server I can publish to, but it will be
accessible only by IP address. I'll send the Modify form to InterNIC to
change the primary and secondary DNS servers, but that will probably take
them at least several days to get done. Once that happens, the change will
take a while to propagate through the Internet. The upshot is that it may
be a couple weeks before you can access this web site by name on its new
server. I'll do the best I can to keep the original server updated as
well, so at some point you will simply hit the new server instead of the
old one when you point your browser to http://www.ttgnet.com.
And it's not just me. My friend and future co-author, Paul Robichaux,
hosts his web site at BigBiz. He's also been having the same kinds of
problems that I've been having, and they also moved his web site from
Server01 to Server05 some time ago. He told me yesterday that he was
unable load his home page in his browser at all. He signed up with pair
Networks about an hour before I did. I feel particularly bad about that,
because Paul originally signed up with BigBiz on my recommendation.
This mess is costing us not just aggravation, but readers. I noticed
that my stats are down, and I can only attribute that to the fact that
people aren't willing to wait several minutes for a page to load. And I
can't blame them. Please bear with us. We're doing everything we can to
get the problem fixed.
March 3, 1999
Paul Robichaux mailed me yesterday afternoon to tell me that his
account was already set up at pair Networks. I signed up with them about
an hour after he did, so I was hoping that meant I'd get my new account
information from them soon, but I haven't so far. Well, they said two to
three business days, so I can't complain.
I've gotten mail from many people telling me that my site was
responding slowly or not at all, but I've also gotten quite a few messages
telling me that they weren't having any problems accessing it. One even
said that my site was the fastest of any he visits. I think the problem is
intermittent, because at times I've been able access my own site normally,
and at other times I can't even get the home page to load. Same thing when
I POP my mail. Sometimes it transfers quickly, and other times it takes
several minutes to even make a connection or it times out. And I don't
think it's a connectivity issue. I've done PINGs and TRACERTs each time,
and the network is performing normally. The problem seems to be simply
server load. What is particularly aggravating is that I've sent four email
messages to BigBiz during this latest problem period, and I haven't
received a response to even one of them. This over a period of a couple of
But the amount of traffic to this site is growing fast, and I can't
continue to have it hosted by a service that has this kind of problems.
One of the reasons I picked pair Networks is that they host some of the
biggest sites on the Internet, including Tom's Hardware. They have
something over 100 web servers, and connectivity out the wazoo. If they
can handle sites like Tom's Hardware, which recently passed the 1,000,000
pages/day, it can sure handle my site at less than 1% of that load.
And speaking of Tom's Hardware, I decided to buy his book. I've read
through the thing now, and I can't believe how bad it is. What I was
expecting was a technically competent, insightful, no BS book about PC
hardware. What I found was an error-plagued, superficial book that's not
of much use to anyone, novice or expert. It really made me wonder why
anyone pays any attention to Mr. Pabst. Here are just a few amazing facts
I found in Tom's Hardware Guide:
- 30-pin SIMMs are 16 bits wide, and so must be installed in pairs
in 386 and 486 systems. [30-pin SIMMs are 8 bits wide, and must
be installed four per bank in 386/486 systems, and eight per bank in
the few Pentium-class systems that use them.]
- DAT stands for Digital Analog Tape [DAT stands for Digital
Audio Tape, and anyway the proper terminology for a "DAT"
tape drive is DDS, not DAT]
- xDSL throughput varies according to how heavily other users on
your xDSL line are transferring data [xDSL is a point-to-point
service, and does not use shared media]
- "A 7GB DAT cartridge costs only about $12 per unit, for an
incredible value of 597.3MB per penny. That's half a gig for each
penny you spend." [When I do the calculations, I get (7
GB*1,024 MB/GB)/1200 cents = 5.97 MB/penny. This isn't isolated,
either. Anywhere Mr. Pabst does math, you'd best check it yourself.]
- Most telephones use Category 2 cable [there is no such
thing as Category 2 cable, and never has been]
- No video is available during a flash BIOS recovery procedure
[Mr. Pabst apparently doesn't realize that this is true only for PCI
video cards, which is an excellent reason to keep an old ISA video
- TCP/IP doesn't do "transfer checking" and is therefore
less reliable than IPX/SPX. [Huh? From his garbled explanation,
it appears that Mr. Pabst is referring to UDP rather than TCP. What
Mr. Pabst doesn't know about network and transport layer protocols
could fill a book.]
And it goes on and on. I don't normally trash competitors books, and
every technical book I've ever seen has at least a few errors, but this
one has so many mistakes that I felt I should say something. For now, if
you want a good hardware book, buy Scott Mueller's Upgrading &
Repairing PCs. Steer clear of Tom's Hardware Guide.
* * * * *
I've not been posting much mail the last several days, but I thought
posting this message from Timothy Werth [firstname.lastname@example.org]
was worth the small additional risk that my update will time-out because
of the page size:
Don't know if you have seen this yet or not.
I thought you would find it interesting, I certainly did.
I am participating in an Internet campaign
to stop a regulation which would require your bank to spy on you, and
I'd like to invite you to join me. We now have less than 20 days to
contact the FDIC and demand that it kill its proposed "Know Your
Customer" rule. Please forward this message to any friends, family,
co-workers, neighbors, or other people you know who may be interested,
then go to http://www.defendyourprivacy.com/
and sign the petition. It will be submitted directly to the FDIC. Plus,
a copy will be sent to your representative in the U.S. House and to both
your U.S. Senators. The FDIC's Know Your Customer rule would force banks
to "monitor" your checking and savings account and report any
"unusual transactions" to the federal government. This
frightening threat to your financial privacy would force your bank to:
* Discover your "source of funds"
* Determine your "normal and expected
* Report any "suspicious activity"
to federal investigators
The government claims it is trying to thwart
money launderers and drug dealers. But what this law will do is turn
every bank teller into a government informer and everyone with a bank
account into a criminal suspect.
In a free society, the government has no
business asking where you get your money or how you spend it -- and
politicians have no right to force your bank to monitor your account.
But that's exactly what's going to happen, unless we can generate enough
opposition before the FDIC's comment period expires on March 8. Outraged
Americans have already flooded the FDIC with over 20,000 comments
against the Know Your Customer regulation -- but the agency hasn't
backed down yet.
Let's keep up the pressure. Please forward
this e-mail to everyone you know who might be interested in helping, but
please don't send it indiscriminately -- spam will only hurt our
campaign. Then go to http://www.defendyourprivacy.com/
and sign the petition.
When I first hit this web site, I'll admit that I was
concerned. They ask you to provide your name, snail-mail address, and
email address. My first thought was that this might be a site run by
a scum-sucking spammer to gather solid data on a lot of people. So I did
some investigating. I hit InterNIC to find out who the domain was
registered to, and found that it belongs to the Libertarian Party. You can
trust those guys. You might not agree with all of their positions on
issues, but they're not going to turn around and sell your information to
a spammer. (I used to be the Finance Vice-Chairman of the Libertarian
National Committee, so I know they're trustworthy.) As it turns out, if
I'd just scrolled down to the bottom of their home page, I'd have seen
there that this is an operation of the Libertarian Party.
I just added my voice to the petition, and I'm encouraging
all my readers to do the same. Enough is enough. Although they make
reference to only 20 days left, it appears to me that the comment period
ends March 8th, so if you're going to do it, do it now.
* * * * *
And, from Chuck Waggoner [email@example.com],
here's another very disturbing piece of information about violations of
in today's NYTimes on the Web.
It suggests that computer privacy is already
non-existent, and may one day even become illegal.
Would like your comments.
Well, I can't say I'm surprised, although I wasn't aware
that Microsoft applications were embedding my Ethernet MAC address into
the documents they created. That's an outrage, of course, and the
rationale given in the article is totally bogus, but I don't know what to
do about it. I could stop using Microsoft applications, I suppose, but
short of writing my own word processor I'm not sure how I'd know what some
other application is doing.
I did find it ironic that before I could access the article
I was required to supply various personal information, including my email
address. I did as I usually do and gave my name as anonymous, my email as
firstname.lastname@example.org, etc. Quaintly, the username anonymous had already
been taken, but the NY Times web server suggested anonymous75 instead.
Privacy, electronic or otherwise, really has only two
enemies. Unfortunately, they're government and business, which is a pretty
formidable pair. Much though I abhor Scott McNealy's position, "You
already have zero privacy -- get over it," I'm afraid he's right. All
governments and many businesses are determined to violate our privacy, and
I don't see any solution to the problem short of hanging them all from
This latest example is bad, but it's by no means the worst.
It's bad enough when organizations are up-front about violating my
privacy, as is often the case with government and sometimes with
businesses. It's worse still when they violate my privacy sneakily, as in
this case. But the worst of all situations is when they pretend to make
provisions for protecting my privacy and then violate it behind my back.
A good example of this last is the phone company and their
Caller-ID. Most people think that per-line blocking or per-call blocking
prevents their information from being sent to the number they're calling.
It doesn't. What it does do is instruct the switch to toggle one bit in
the string it sends. Toggling that bit instructs consumer-grade Caller-ID
devices not to display information for that caller. But Caller-ID
information is sent as a simple ASCII string, and, for anyone with a
modicum of knowledge, it's easy enough to grab the raw data. So much for
that supposedly blocked call.
If you can get anyone at the phone company to even admit
this, they'll tell you it's done that way so that 911 emergency services
can get the information even on a per-line blocked call. That's totally
bogus, of course. It would be easy enough to program a switch to simply
not send Caller-ID information for blocked calls, but doing that would
provide actual privacy to people, and that's not acceptable. Blocked calls
directed to 911 could be programmed to deliver the caller ID information,
thereby putting that red herring to rest.
And the phone company never mentions the similar ANI
(automatic number identification) technology. This is used by large
mail-order retailers like LL Bean to know who's calling them before they
even answer the phone. This information is delivered out-of-band via
digital trunks. When that nice lady at LL Bean picks up the phone, she
already has your record up on her screen. And that's whether or not you
have call-blocking in effect.
All of this sucks, of course, but I just don't know that
there's anything to be done. I may be tilting at windmills, but lost cause
or not I'm going to keep protesting at every opportunity.
March 4, 1999
I know that I probably bore people talking about the variable weather
here in North Carolina, but yesterday reached a new pinnacle of weirdness.
In mid morning, our indoor/outdoor thermometer showed an outside
temperature of 73F/23C. After lunch, we had winds gusting to 40 MPH and a
strong thunderstorm. When I looked out the window at 3:48 p.m., it was
snowing heavily. The low last night was about 20F/-7C.
* * * * *
My account information from pair Networks showed up yesterday evening.
I immediately called my friend, Steve Tucker, who had just gone through
getting his account set up with pair. With his help, I got my mail
forwarding configured, which is the most important thing. As the
nameserver changes propagate through DNS, some SMTP servers will be
delivering mail to mail.ttgnet.com at the old BigBiz IP address, and
others to the new IP address at pair Networks. Until the change propagates
fully, I'll be getting some mail at each place, so I needed to get
forwarding set up at pair so that everything didn't end up in my main
Getting my web site moved over will be aggravating, through no fault of
pair Networks. The problem is Microsoft FrontPage. As usual, its lack of
configurability is going to cause problems. Right now, my <Root Web>
is located on a server at BigBiz, and maps to www.ttgnet.com.
I have a copy of this root web on my local hard drive. Ideally, I should
be able to just publish that local copy to each location. But I don't
think FrontPage will let me do that.
Actually, it will let me do that, but only by specifying the IP address
for the new server (or by specifying its physical location as something
like www109.pair.com/ttgnet, which I don't want to do. FrontPage is badly
in need of some .ini files or something.
The other aggravating thing is that pair Networks sent me my main
password and FrontPage password. They suggested I change the main password
immediately, which I did. But there's no apparent way to change the
FrontPage password. I could live with that, but for two interrelated
problems: (1) pair Networks assigned my FrontPage password for me, and
it's the usual long meaningless string of mix upper- and lower-case
letters and numbers, and (2) FrontPage has no way that I can find to save
the password locally. You actually have to type it in each time you open
FrontPage to publish. Geez.
* * * * *
pair Networks has some kind of "Platinum" deal with InterNIC
that supposedly gets faster service for requests from pair. Well, it
appears to work as advertised, because I just got notification this
morning that the changes to the domain record had been made. That meant
that getting my web site moved over to pair Networks became increasingly
urgent, because before long some users that hit www.ttgnet.com
are are going to be directed to the web site on pair Networks. As of this
morning, there was nothing there but a generic banner page, so I needed to
get everything published to the root web on pair Networks.
Because I'm essentially setting up a new web site and would have to
publish every single file up to pair, now was the time to do all the
reorganization that needed done. My web site on BigBiz "jest
growed." The site comprises hundreds of files and about 10 MB. Many,
perhaps most, of those files were in the root directory. That needed
fixed, so here's what I did:
First, I called up my local copy of the web in FrontPage 98. I then
"published" it to another local copy in a different directory.
After exiting FrontPage and restarting it, I called up the local copy of
the new web. I made a bunch of organizational changes, e.g. moving all the
weekly daynotes files out of the root folder and into the \rbt\daynotes
folder. I also renamed the few files that had .htm extensions to .html.
Once all that was done, I did a Recalculate Hyperlinks to make sure the
local copy of the root web was internally consistent.
Once all that was done, I held my breath and published the local copy
up to the new web site at pair, using the new IP address (22.214.171.124)
rather than the site name, which still points to BigBiz. Publishing to
pair versus BigBiz was like the difference between night and day. I
published the full site--close to 100 folders, nearly 2,000 files, and
about 8 MB--to pair in less time than it took me yesterday to publish
exactly three files to BigBiz, one 4 KB file and two 32 KB files.
All these changes mean that bookmarks you've set may no longer be
valid. For example, thisweek.html used to be in the root folder,
and is now in the \rbt folder. I apologize for the inconvenience, but the
reorganization really needed done, and now was the time to do it.
For now, at least, you can get to the home page of the new site by
using the IP address, http://126.96.36.199/
or the underlying server name, http://www109.pair.com/ttgnet.
Once the changes propagate through DNS, using the URL http://www.tttgnet.com
should work fine once again because the CNAME record that aliases the
machine name www.ttgnet.com to the
underlying IP address will work. At least, I sincerely hope so. I may end
up having to republish the whole site to http://www.ttgnet.com
rather than http://188.8.131.52/ in
order to fix internal FrontPage references. I hope not, but I'll do it if
I have to.
I'm going to put up a notice on the home page on the BigBiz copy of the
site to point people to the new site. I'll leave that up through
mid-month, which should be plenty of time for the DNS changes to
propagate. I was considering doing a redirection page on the old site, but
I think posting a notice about what's going on is more useful.
* * * * *
Okay, here's the kind of thing I was talking about where an
advertising-supported hardware web site gives (to me, at least) the
appearance of not being impartial. Check out the Kryotech
Cool K6-3 500 review on AnandTech. Anand praises this product with
faint damns. And to me, this product is simply a stupid idea with
absolutely no redeeming features. Basically, it consists of a refrigerator
built into a PC case. The idea is to keep a K6-III CPU cold so that it can
But the thing costs $1,250 for the case with an ASUS motherboard and a
K6-III CPU, which is a whole lot more than the motherboard, CPU, and a
decent ordinary case would cost you. That would be okay, except that this
whole contraption yields a speed boost that most people wouldn't even
notice. I mean, this thing gives you 500 MHz performance, but you can go
out and buy a plain AMD K6-III/450 and run it without all the extra
cooling. Is a 50 MHz/11% speed increase worth all that extra money? If it
allowed you to run the CPU at 1 GHz, that might be a different story. Some
people would find it worthwhile to spend that extra money to more-or-less
double the speed of the K6-3. But even then, for less money you could get
approximately equivalent overall performance from an Intel processor
without using all the kludges. What is the point of this product? I sure
can't see one.
If I reviewed this product, I'd do so in one short paragraph. Something
like "You would have to be a complete idiot to buy the Kryotech
Cool K6-3 500. It's very expensive and provides only a barely noticeable
performance boost relative to a system using a plain vanilla K6-III. And
you can spend much less money and get a faster system in the bargain by
buying an Intel-based system. For many applications, even a system using
an Intel Celeron CPU will be faster than this so-called high performance
system. Steer clear of the Kryotech Cool K6-3 500."
If anyone takes the time to read that review and look at the
benchmarks, I'd appreciate you telling me whether you agree with me or
March 5, 1999
Well, the move to pair Networks seems to be going well, with only the
minor problems that can always be expected with such a move. InterNIC sent
me a notification yesterday morning that the ttgnet.com domain name record
had been changed to reflect the move to pair Networks, and the change
finally showed up on whois this morning. That change will gradually take
effect as local DNS servers stop using the old ttgnet.com IP address from
their cache and refresh it from the new nameservers at pair Networks.
And that brought home one of the problems. Most people think that SMTP
works on a store-and-forward basis, sending your outgoing mail messages to
intermediary servers until they finally reach the destination. That's not
how it works. When you send an email message, your SMTP server opens a
direct session with the destination SMTP server and transfers your message
directly to it. And because my DNS information is in a state of flux, that
means that some SMTP servers are sending mail destined for ttgnet.com to
the BigBiz server, and others are now sending it to the pair Networks
That's how I found out that something wasn't right. Barbara uses the
mail address email@example.com.
At BigBiz, I had that address set up to autoforward to our actual ISP
account, which is firstname.lastname@example.org.
She POPs her mail from there. When I got my account information from pair
Networks, the first thing I did was go in and create a .mailproto file to
autoforward mail for Barbara and a couple of other people who have
ttgnet.com mail addresses. I ran the program that converts the ASCII text
file to a .forward file, and everything appeared to have worked properly.
I was pretty sure I'd done everything right, because I used my friend
Steve Tucker's ASCII file as a template, and his forwarding is working
But this morning I found some of Barbara's list serve mail in my
mailbox. That's a minor aggravation, but I do want to get it fixed before
all her mail starts coming to me. I sent mail to email@example.com
and asked them if they could just fix it for me. We'll see what happens.
* * * * *
This from Shawn Wallbridge [firstname.lastname@example.org]:
I would have to agree with your take on the
Kryotech Cool K6-3 500.
Here is my take.
Kryotech should be pushing their Alpha boxes
to the High End NT users. When you are paying $5-6k for a machine,
tacking on an extra $800 wouldn't even be noticed. When you have
complete systems shipping for less than your kit you are after the wrong
market. With the constant increases in performance I can't see the
desktop market being a viable option. I am not to sure how often Compaq
releases a new Alpha chip, but I would think that they would have a much
slower release cycle. I realize that Intel basically killed any plans
KryoTech had for the PII or PIII, but maybe the PPGA Celeron's will
offer chance of cooling.
I paid $380(CAN) for my PII 300 SL2W8 that I
run at 450. My other machine (Celeron 300A@450) cost less than
$1200(CAN) to build. I can't see them selling too many kits. Especially
now that the PIII 500 is out. Now a 1GHz Alpha would be nice :)
I don't understand why anyone in his right mind would spend
the extra money on a refrigerator when he could do so many other things
with it that would give him more bang for the buck. Before I spent money
on a Kryotech cooler, I'd use it to buy more memory, a bigger/faster hard
drive, a bigger monitor, or any number of other things that would provide
more real benefit. And under NT, that money would be much better spent on
a dual-processor motherboard and a second processor.
* * * * *
This from Adam Lieber [aslieber@Princeton.EDU]:
I agree that Anandtech's review of the
Kryotech unit was amiss. In no way would I ever call that unit
"revolutionary." I would have to say that many if not most of
the articles there are, to be charitable, of limited use. This is
because they do not take into account that the intended use of the
product. One time, I went looking for a cheap motherboard that had sound
and video integrated into it. I found one, but it got low marks and the
review spent most of its space on the lack of expandability and
flakiness when overclocked. I never did see any mention that the board
would have been good for it's intended purpose- a cheap, stable no
I do frequent that site, however, because it
seems to have the best variety of reviews that around. I don't rely on
the advice at all though. It just informs me that a product exists, and
then I do my own research on it. If I have to put up with the ads and
the ramblings of a teenager (although I am one myself), so be it.
From the one review of yours that I have
read, concerning the EIDE Raid product, I do hope that you choose to
write more, because I have never read anything better. Keep up the good
Well, in one sense I can't complain about Anand's giving
good reviews to products, because I also review only products that I like.
That is to say, unless I'm pretty sure I'm going to like a product, I
don't even request an eval unit. There's too much stuff out there to waste
time reviewing products that I suspect will turn out to be poor or
mediocre. That said, if I get a product and it turns out to be a dog, I
won't hesitate to say so. Before I post a bad review, I will give the
vendor a chance privately to tell me why I'm wrong. In the past, I've
sometimes found that it was my own ineptness rather than a problem with
the product itself that caused the problem.
I don't have any problem with the fact that Anand is a
teen-ager. I know that old guys like me (I'm 45) sometimes take the
position that these young whippersnappers have so little experience that
they couldn't possibly have anything useful to say. But this industry
changes so fast that no one has more than five years of experience. I just
happen to have that five years of experience five times. And that is
useful in the sense that it gives me perhaps a bit more perspective on
things. I've seen it all before, usually more than once, so I tend not to
get excited as readily as someone for whom everything is new.
And I do plan on doing many more reviews. In fact, I'm
testing a bunch of stuff now. Finding the time to write formal reviews is
* * * * *
This from Robert Morgan [email@example.com]:
I have to agree that the Kryotech's should
win an award for 'Pointless Use of Technology'. And is refrigeration
even technology today? Sheesh, the award should be Pointless Use of A
Anand's always been a very weak type of
person. "I'm sorry the update is late", "I take the blame
for the server being down again", "Bear with me", blah
However, he doesn't recommend the system and
is even doubtful about future versions. As far as Anand goes, that's a
negative review. The performance graphs tell all: most of them have
various Celerons as fast or faster than the Kryotech; failing that, the
new PIII's are on top. It should go without saying that any overclocked
system anyone puts together today will be beaten by an off-the-shelf
system in a matter of months. The sad fact is that this overclocked
system is already being beaten by off-the-shelf systems.
Yes, he does tend to gush, but then he is only 17 years
old. Perhaps his constant mea culpa stuff is culturally influenced. And
you're right that he doesn't recommend the system. I guess what struck me
was that he seemed to be looking for nice things to say about a product
that doesn't appear to have anything at all to recommend it. I wouldn't
have reviewed the product in the first place. If for some reason I had,
I'd certainly not have written an eight or ten page report about it. I
mean, how long does it take to say, "This product is a loser. Don't
* * * * *
I think I'll go ahead and publish this now. One of the very nice things
about the move to pair is that I can publish any time I want to. With
BigBiz, it's always been tough to publish successfully any time other than
early morning. Lately, it's been difficult to do it even then, and next to
impossible any other time of day. When I posted the final update to the
BigBiz servers yesterday afternoon, it literally took more than an hour
and a half to post three updated pages. With pair, it takes a couple of
minutes any time of day.
* * * * *
Late Afternoon: I
haven't gotten much done today. I wasn't feeling very well, so I just went
back and took a nap for a couple of hours. When I arrived back at my
computer I found a bunch of Barbara's mail waiting for me, along with a
response from pair Networks support suggesting that I edit my .procmailrc
file manually to change all occurrences of ^FROM_DAEMON to
^FROM_MAILER. According to them, "procmail will not forward what it
deems to be "system-generated" mail, because of the increased
risk of mail loops that can flood your mailbox with thousands of messages
and load down the server." I made the change, and it seems to work.
At least Barbara has now gotten her first list serve message directly on
her machine from pair, so that may have solved the problem.
The second message from pair Networks was a nasty shock. It was an
invoice, saying that they'd charged my credit card for $234.97. I knew
that it was supposed to be for $194.10, so I checked the saved .html page
I had from the sign-up process. Sure enough, $194.10 was the correct
amount. The problem seems to be that they applied only an 8% discount,
which is their usual discount for pre-paying a full year, rather than the
24% discount that they offer as a monthly special for new sign-ups during
March. I fired back a nastygram with the .html page attached, telling them
to please issue me an immediate credit.
Then I mailed Paul Robichaux, who signed up with pair Networks the same
day I did, also for a full year. He says his invoice shows the 24%
discount, and is for the correct amount for the full year, but they have
his account showing as paid through October instead of next March. I'm
pretty pleased with pair Networks so far in a technical sense, but their
billing department seems to be zero for two so far.
* * * * *
Early Evening: The
domain changes appear to be propagating through DNS successfully. All of
my mail and Barbara's for the last couple of hours has been coming through
pair rather than BigBiz. I just tried hitting http://www.ttgnet.com
from my own machine, and it brought up the new site. Up until dinner time,
it had been bringing up the old one, so apparently BellSouth's DNS servers
hit the root servers for an update. If you are using the numeric address
to access this site and haven't tried using http://www.ttgnet.com
lately, it'd probably be worth giving it another try.
My first hint that my local DNS was now pointing the the new server was
when I used Outlook to retrieve my mail after dinner. I have two services
set up, one pointing to the numeric identifier at pair Networks and the
second pointing to mail.ttgnet.com. When Outlook tried to hit the second
POP server, it blew up with an error message because it was trying to log
on to mail.ttgnet.com at pair Networks using the account name and password
from BigBiz. I reconfigured that one to point to the numeric address at
BigBiz. Of course, it timed out, as everything at BigBiz has been doing
for me lately.
* * * * *
And speaking of Outlook, Bo Leuf is looking for feedback from Outlook
users on his
* * * * *
I sent the following message to BigBiz.com just now:
Please discontinue service
immediately for my domain, ttgnet.com.
Since the beginning of the year, your
service has been completely unacceptable. My mail has been delayed or not
delivered at all. My readers have told me, and I have experienced myself,
that small pages often take several minutes to load. Some time ago, you
moved me from server1 to server5, saying that that would cure the
problems. Instead, it has made the problems worse. It has been nearly
impossible to publish my pages to my server.
Over the last two weeks, I have sent
four email messages to you about these problems, and have not received
even the courtesy of a response to any of them. I have been more than
willing to allow you time to fix the problems, but I finally found it
necessary to relocate my domain. This has cost me money. Worse still, it
has cost me time that I shouldn't have had to waste. The worst thing is
that it has cost me readers.
I recently received invoice #23410
from you for service from January 1 through March 31. Given the lack of
service that you have been providing to me, I find it amazing that you
have the nerve to bill me. Please issue an immediate credit for all
March 6, 1999
I see that Pournelle is back from his dinner with Bill Gates and his
day-long visit to Microsoft. He's upset because the folks over on WebPagesThatSuck.com
are trashing his site in a discussion thread. Mr. Heinlein commented about
critics in several of his later books, and these comments apply here in
spades. Creating is hard work. Editing is easier, but still hard work. Any
idiot can criticize, and many of them do.
Pournelle makes a salient point. Few of those who have posted
criticisms of his site appear to have web sites of their own. Most of
those who do list sites have tacky personal sites on AOL and similar
places that provide cheap or free personal web space.
One such site is that of Susan
Miller, who criticizes Pournelle's site by saying "Looking at
this site from a design perspective was painful. Poor alignment, poor use
of colors and that boring font! It made me totally uninterested in the
content." That's some criticism coming from someone who last
updated her own site 7 February, and whose apparent idea of good content
is a banal collection of family photographs and the usual pathetic
collection of links.
And if the absence of interesting content isn't enough, her pages suck
at least as badly as Pournelle's. She appears to have attended the Ransom
Note School of Web Page Design. She doesn't like the "boring
font" that Pournelle uses. That happens to be Times Roman, an elegant
standard serif font known for high readability. If it has become cliched,
that's because it works so well. Ms. Miller uses a sans-serif font on her
own pages, apparently under the impression that sans-serif is somehow
cleaner or more elegant. The problem, of course, is that using a
sans-serif font for body text sacrifices readability, particularly with
the long lines she uses.
What's truly pathetic is that Ms. Miller will probably get more hits on
her site this week from people who read Pournelle's site and mine than
she's gotten in the last year on her own merits.
All of that said, some of the posters do make valid points. Pournelle's
site is never going to win any design awards. Nor is mine likely to. Both
of us concentrate on providing frequently-updated content and short
download times rather than on incorporating snazzy graphics and cool web
tricks. But so what? It's better, in my opinion at least, to have decent
content and a Spartan layout than to have zero calorie content on a Web
Page McNuggets site.
Perhaps I should submit my own page to WebPagesThatSuck.com and let
them waste some more of their time savaging it.
* * * * *
This from Shawn Wallbridge [firstname.lastname@example.org]:
My point was, when there is nothing else you
can do to increase the performance, $800 is nothing. If I go out and buy
a $6000 Alpha machine loaded with the biggest and best, and it is still
not fast enough then $800 to make it 10% faster is well worth it.
With the next Alpha chip being Slot based I
would think that KryoTech is probably a little worried about what market
to target. Maybe that is why they are trying out the Gamer market.
Well, true. There are some applications--real-time
commodity trading, for example--where even a marginal performance increase
is worth a lot of money. But I just don't see any application where this
kludge makes any sense. No one is holding a gun to someone's head to force
him to use the K6-III CPU. As Anand's benchmark graphics show, even a
Celeron-based system beats this product in many applications. If raw
performance is what you're looking for, you don't use a K6-III to start
with. If you're using an Alpha and need more performance, you simply step
up to the next faster Alpha, or to an SMP machine.
If Kryotech is looking to the gamer market, they're in a
lot of trouble, because the K6-III is not a particularly good gaming chip,
even with the 3DNow! extensions. How long do you think it'll be before
game manufacturers jump on the Intel Pentium III SIMD instructions? Not
long, I suspect. 3DNow! support in game software may soon be an
afterthought, if that. If Intel ships a Celeron with SSE, as I suspect
they will, that'll just be another nail in the coffin of 3DNow!.
* * * * *
This from Chuck Waggoner [email@example.com]:
Just tried www.ttgnet.com,
as you suggested, and I got the new updated pages without using the
Thanks for letting me know. Given the nastygram I sent
BigBiz yesterday, my old site will probably stop working pretty soon. Come
to think of it, it had already stopped working for all intents and
March 7, 1999
We've gotten numerous messages saying that the DNS changes have
propagated successfully, so if you're still accessing this page by IP
address, you might want to try accessing it by name instead. Thanks to
everyone who's stuck with us through this mess. The site stats are way
down over the last couple of weeks, and particularly over the last few
days. We're hoping that's a temporary aberration caused by the slow server
response at BigBiz and the DNS mess during the changeover to pair Networks
and doesn't mean that we've lost a lot of readers permanently.
* * * * *
My sources tell me that there have been some problems with getting 500
MHz Pentium III CPUs to work in some existing Slot 1 BX motherboards. It's
not just a BIOS upgrade issue, either. Some Slot 1 motherboards, including
recent models, cannot be upgraded to support the 500 MHz Pentium III. And
you can't tell just by the model of the motherboard. For example, some
Intel RC440BX motherboards support 450 and 500 MHz Pentium III CPUs, while
others support only the 450 MHz version. An RC440BX with product code
BERCMSTDK must be AA# 718163-208 or later; product code BERCASTDK must be
AA# 723888-205 or later; product code BLKRC440BX must be AA# 724299-205 or
later. And so on.
So if you're buying a Pentium III, make sure the motherboard supports
it. If you're buying a new motherboard, make sure it supports the 500 MHz
Pentium III, even if you aren't going to install a fast PIII initially.
The faster Celerons due later this year will probably have the same
requirements as the 500 MHz PIII.