Week of 3/8/99
Friday, July 05, 2002 08:16
A (mostly) daily
journal of the trials, tribulations, and random observations of Robert
Bruce Thompson, a writer of computer books.
March 8, 1999
I absolutely have to get more work done on my book. Actually, it's not
the amount of work that's the problem, it's the amount of output. I'd
originally hoped to get the first draft 100% complete by the end of
February, and certainly by the end of March. I'm working very hard on the
book, but here it is the second week in March and I haven't reached 50%
complete yet. Hardware books are much slower to write than software books.
I don't know what to do to make it go faster. I guess it's going to take
as long as it takes. But I'd better get back to work on it now. More here
* * * * *
This from Chuck Waggoner [email@example.com]:
More info on the MS unique identifier number
It's gratifying to note that Microsoft is
willing to change their methods (although how are we REALLY to know what
exactly their software does), but disturbing that Intel appears
All of this is disturbing to me. As is the "we didn't
know we were doing this, but now that you've pointed it out, we'll stop
doing it" routine. As a matter of policy, I *never* register
software, just because I don't want the software vendors having that
information about me. But now I wonder what's been going on behind the
scenes. When I visit the Microsoft web site, or simply when I'm connected
to the Internet, are Microsoft applications sending information about me
to Microsoft without my knowing that they're doing so? I don't think I
have any paranoid tendencies, but this has to make me wonder.
* * * * *
This from The Moores [firstname.lastname@example.org]:
This is interesting. Seems Intel and
Microsoft have user's privacy concerns in common. [Washington
Yep. That just confirms the NY Times article. I think it
would only be fitting if someone tracked down and published the home
addresses, telephone numbers, credit card numbers, credit histories, tax
returns, etc. of all the Microsoft and Intel executives.
* * * * *
This from Bruce Denman [bdenman@ftc-inet]
Your recent experience with BigBiz has been
interesting and enlightening. Another example it would seem of business
not tending to business...i.e. their customers. Do hope your new home at
Pair works out well. Now for some blathering:
Re: Tom and Anand: Appreciate the comments
regarding Tom's Hardware Book. Think its time to take down my link to
his site on my page and Anand's too unless accompainied by major
disclaimers. One other site I visit regularly is Http://www.realworldtech.com.
Formerly a commercial retail site, its webmaster Dean Kent now provides
only technical content which seems intelligent, to the point, and
Re: FrontPage 98: You and JerryP talk a bit
bout using Frontpage which may be fine if your provider/host uses their
extensions. I need to delve into it deeper but I think w/o those
extensions FP loses much of its luster. I manage a personal site using
FP Express and FTP changes manually. It works. My ISP has two servers;
one for personal pages (no additional cost) but also has a server for
"commercial" sites. This latter includes more disk space; CGI
support; and FP extension support. But they charge $50/mo minimum, have
a $125 setup fee not including things like private domain registration,
etc. It is pretty difficult to judge who to use and what costs are
reasonable. Pairs info on host connectivity, e.g. DS-3; OC-12, are well
beyond my knowledge base. Can you recommend a primer for the
uninitiated? Oh, I do have other choices for local dial up of course and
at least one includes FP support; but they all lose out in other
respects (connectivity issues; frequency of boots; # busy signals; timed
Re: Kyrotech K6-3/500...Kyrotech states on
their web site that supercooling CMOS devices to -40°C offers about a
30 to 35% increase in performance. This; on the face of it given the
prices of today's desktop CPUs, is just not a viable option. Period. End
Re: AMD K6-2/xxx I am a proponent of the AMD
chip for a couple reasons.
- They work well.
- The advant of having competition agains
Intel has proven beneficial to most everybody. Its called lower
prices. And if we do not support AMD, then we will again just have
Intel. Anyone remember $800-$900 CPUs?
- Slightly cheaper than Intel. At similiar
speeds; any differences in performance are slight and probably not
significant or even noticeable to most users. AMD appears viable for
all but the Power User(for whom price may be of secondary
importance) and some gamers.
Well; enough blathering. Have a good day. No
snow here in forecast :)
As far as Tom and Anand, I've never meant to imply that
they were intentionally biased, merely that accepting advertising money
raises at least the appearance of impropriety. I'm sure they're both very
nice guys, although I've never met either of them. In fact, I just read
something on Tom's Hardware the other day that showed a distinct lack of
bias. To give you an idea of the amounts of money involved, a video card
manufacturer was offering up to $15,000/month to major web sites that
would promote their product. Tom "outed" them by publishing the
memo that contained the offer, and they were pretty upset about it.
I have had hardware vendors offer me payment to review
their products, although never on anything near that scale. I always tell
them no. I'll take free eval units--that's standard practice--but I won't
take money from them for reviewing their products. They may dress it up as
de minimis payment to help offset the time and costs involved in reviewing
their product, but I look upon such payments as bribes, pure and simple.
As far as choosing someone to host your web site, I really
can't make any recommendations. I'm happy with pair Networks, but that's
based on my requirements (which may be very different from yours) and very
little actual experience. I was happy with BigBiz, too, until their
service started going down hill. But I will say that you should be able to
find a satisfactory web hosting company with setup charges of $0 to $25 or
so, and monthly charges in the $10 to $30 range. The numbers you quote are
outrageous for the level of services provided, but are typical for ISPs
that offer web hosting. Better to go with a company that specializes in
web hosting. There's no reason to tie the two things--ISP versus web
hosting service. They're completely separate.
A month or two back, I mentioned several web sites that
concern themselves with choosing a web hosting service, rating web hosting
services, etc. You can probably find that reference using the search
function. Alternatively, visit the web site for Peter Kent's excellent
book, Poor Richard's
Web Site. If you don't have that book, get a copy before you make any
decisions about starting your own full-blown site. You can pick it up at
your local bookstore, or from Amazon.com by clicking here.
March 9, 1999
We were supposed to have a couple inches of ice and snow when we woke
up this morning, but it hasn't shown up yet. The Weather Channel says
there's a 100% chance of a winter storm today, so we'll see.
* * * * *
Bo Leuf mentions Internet faxing on his
site this morning. It's something we've talked about in the past, so
he solicted my comments. He mentions the eFax
service, but it appears to me to be just another fax gateway service.
The sender still has to send the fax using existing dial-up fax protocols.
What I want is for IETF to define a standard for IP faxing. This would
allow a sender to address a fax to an IP address or hostname (ideal for
recipient companies who have full-time Internet connectivity) or to an
email address (ideal for individual recipients, either at home or at their
desks at work).
When a company bought a new fax machine, it'd have two connectors on the
back. A standard POTS connector for a regular phone line, and an Ethernet
connector to put it on the network. PC fax software would allow one to
enter the recipient in three ways: standard phone number, IP
address/hostname, or email address.
Existing fax protocols are unusable because, among other reasons, they are
isochronous. But that's a holdover from the early days of faxing, when the
scanning device and the output device were actually linked in tandem.
There's no need for that nowadays. A simple buffer is all it takes. The
fact that IETF has not already defined a set of IP fax protocols makes me
think the perhaps the situation is more complex than I appreciate.
* * * * *
This from Scott Kitterman email@example.com:
I know you've touted APC UPS on your site
several times. I thought I'd pass on my good experience. After about 18
months of service, the battery on my UPS failed recently. I went to the
APC web site, found the UPS model I have, clicked through to order a
replacement (about 45$), and waited. A few days later it was on the
front porch when I got home. The replacement instructions were clear and
in 5 minutes I was back in business. The part that surprised me was the
enclosed UPS (United Parcel Service) shipping label allowing me to ship
the dead battery back to APC at no additional charge. That resolved my
Nothing there should be particularly
exceptional, but I'm always surprised when support after the sale works
out that well. I know where I'm buying my next UPS. I may have spent a
little more money than I had to, but on the other hand I saved a lot of
research time on alternatives.
Yes, I'm a big advocate of APC UPSs. I've been buying them
for probably a decade, and have bought hundreds of them for myself, my
clients, and my former employers. In all that time, I remember getting
only one or two units that didn't function perfectly right out of the box.
When I needed a new UPS last summer, I decided I might as
well try something else, just to see what was out there. I ended up buying
a TrippLite 675 unit, which blew up the first time I connected it to mains
power. I mean that literally. It made a pop loud enough to hurt my ears,
and sparks came shooting out the back. Tripp was very good about replacing
the unit immediately, but that could have been a very bad situation if I'd
connected the UPS to the equipment before connecting it to the power
I bought the Tripp because it was about 10% or so cheaper
than the equivalent APC model. Don't get me wrong, the Tripp is not a bad
unit by any means. But the specs aren't quite as good as the APC, and the
APC gives the impression of better construction quality, at least to my
eyes. There are really only three things that matter about a UPS: battery,
inverter, and switching circuitry. APC uses high-grade components for all
of these. Many of their competitors use components that aren't quite as
good. Paying 10% or 15% more for the APC gets you a better piece of
equipment, one that's likely to last longer and is less likely to fail
when you need it.
And the fact that APC batteries are user-replaceable is a
major benefit. If you'd bought something other than an APC, you'd probably
have had to ship the UPS back to the factory to get the battery replaced.
In my opinion, that more than makes up for the small price premium that
APC units sell for. In fact, you could have kept a spare battery on hand,
eliminating down-time, which is not an option with most of APC's
The Back-UPS line is decent low-end power protection, but I
recommend that people step up to the Back-UPS Pro if at all possible.
Actually, the ones I prefer are the Smart-UPS, which provide true
sine-wave output in the larger sizes. APC positions the Smart-UPS for
protecting servers, but I find them useful for ordinary client protection
as well. I have a Smart-UPS 1000 under my desk right now, with three
computers attached to it.
Anyone who uses his computer for work rather than just play
is crazy if he doesn't have a UPS on it. Nowadays, I just flat-out tell
people, "Buy APC."
March 10, 1999
Here's an interesting web site I just stumbled across this morning. BookCloseOuts.com
specializes in remaindered books. They've even got a special section of
$2.99 computer books, although I'm not sure how much value an old computer
book would retain. I still like Edward
R. Hamilton, Bookseller, from whom I've purchased remaindered books
for years, but these new guys appear to be worth a look if you like buying
bargain books. I may go over there and buy a dozen or two mysteries.
* * * * *
I've begun to wonder about the long-term viability of AMD. I saw in the
paper yesterday that AMD is cutting 300 jobs, and that they seem unable to
deliver K6-III processors in numbers even remotely close to meeting
demand. And they're up against formidable competition from the Celeron, on
both price and performance.
As is obvious from the model name, AMD is trying to position the K6-III
against the Pentium III. But the truth is that, at least in terms of
published performance benchmarks, the K6-III actually competes against the
Celeron. They're roughly equivalent in integer operations, and the Celeron
blows the doors off the AMD at floating point. The one advantage AMD has
is 3DNow!, but few applications support it, and it seems likely that most
software manufacturers will focus their attention on supporting Intel's
SSE first and 3DNow! only as an afterthought, if at all.
And the other major concern is chipset support. If the K6-III is to
succeed, it must be a simple drop-in replacement in
existing Super7 motherboards. And yet, I've seen reports from several
sources that the K6-III doesn't function properly in motherboards that use
the VIA MVP-3 chipset. If that's true, it's a disaster for AMD. When I
checked the AMD approved motherboard list this morning, I found that only
two motherboards (one GigaByte model and one ASUS model) are certified for
the K6-III/450, and both of them use the ALI Aladdin V chipset. There are
a handful of motherboards certified for the K6-III/400, all but one of
which use the Aladdin V. The AOpen AX-59Pro uses the VIA MVP-3, and is
certified at 400. So apparently, reports that state that the K6-III
doesn't work in MVP-3 motherboards are wrong. The question is, is the
AX-59Pro simply an exception to a general rule?
All of this can't be good news for AMD. They're trying to sell a chip
for $400 to $500 that is outperformed in most applications by a $100 to
$150 Intel Celeron. They can't deliver the chip in reasonable numbers, and
there are questions about its compatibility with existing MVP3 Super7
motherboards. I may be wrong--I often have been--but I sniff a disaster in
the making here. My guess is that AMD will eventually solve their yield
problems and be able to deliver the K6-III in reasonable numbers. But I
suspect they'll soon be forced to cut prices down to the level of the
Celeron, say $100 or thereabouts for the K6-III/400 and perhaps $125 or
$150 for the 450 MHz part.
I'm supposed to have some K6-2 and K6-III processors coming in, so I'll
do my own tests. I don't trust what some others have had to say about
them. There are AMD-lovers/Intel-haters and AMD-haters/Intel-lovers out
there, and it's not always immediately clear to me which camp, if either,
a person who publishes benchmarks falls into. It's easy enough to diddle
benchmarks, so I'll see for myself.
* * * * *
This from Robert Morgan [firstname.lastname@example.org]:
Anand's at it again, this time with a Slot-1
Kryotech system. Bottom line this time is that the purpose of the
Kryotech is *not* to permit overclocking, but to improve system
stability with as a result of a cool-running cpu.
Anand then goes on to maintain that the
Kryotech system is at least 5% more stable.
How on earth did he measure that? He
certainly doesn't document his measurements. Seems to me if you don't
want an overheated cpu, put a good fan on it and don't overclock it. If
you need more performance, hust buy a faster cpu, or better yet, more
ram and faster drives.
Exactly. As a matter of fact, I was over on Anand's page
reading that review when your mail came in. Kryotech seems to be
specializing in making pointless components, and Anand seems to be
specializing in praising them with faint damns. As far as I can see (and
I'm going on what Anand says, because I've never seen any Kryotech
products), this kludge accomplishes exactly nothing that a $50 Peltier
cooler in a decently ventilated case wouldn't. Anand seems preoccupied
with the fact that a Peltier device exhausts heat into the case. But
that's what case fans are for, to remove warm air from the case and
replace it with air at ambient temperature. This appears to be yet another
expensive, pointless product from Kryotech.
* * * * *
And Robert Morgan [email@example.com]
sends this follow-up:
Uggh. Feel free to edit on my behalf any
... with as a result of...
... hust ...
Time to clean my glasses.
P.S. I think you were at one time an amateur
astronomer. Just bought an 8" Dob and am having lots of fun. I need
to get it finely collimated, and I'd love to get my hands on some nice
Televue ep's. All in all, a very refreshing change from sitting in front
of a monitor all day.
I didn't even notice the typos. Hell, I don't even worry
much about my own typos. I do sometimes go back and fix a typo that jumps
out at me, but I tend not to edit readers' mail much. If I'd noticed
those, I probably would have fixed them, though.
As far as astronomy, I did have some interest in it back
when I was a teenager. Enough to grind my own mirror. I'm still
interested, but I don't have the time for it. That and the fact that I
live in Winston-Salem, which has the light pollution you'd expect of any
decent size city. Although I'll admit I was tempted when I noticed someone
on the net selling 18" pyrex blank/tool pairs that had been
pre-ground to f/8 spherical. That'd sure short-cut the process of grinding
a big mirror. Of course, I'd probably want to take it down to 1/10 wave or
something, which'd take me years....
Congratulations on your new scope. I envy you.
* * * * *
showed up this morning with a box from Intel that contained some very
interesting items, including a PPGA Celeron/400 and a BI440ZX Socket 370
mainboard to install it in. Slot 1 Celerons should by rights have killed
Socket 7. They damaged it badly, but they didn't sink it, thanks mainly to
AMD's Super7 initiative. But Socket 370 really should be the final nail in
the Socket 7 coffin. Intel positions this Socket 370 board as a low-end
solution, and it appears to me that it and other Socket 370 mainboards
should dominate the low-end segment. We're talking about $100 mainboards
and $60 to $125 processors here. They're low-end in terms of cost, but
they provide performance at least comparable to (and usually better than)
the mid- and high-end Socket 7 stuff.
All of this gives the AMD K6-* and the Cyrix MII a real problem. I
suspect that's why AMD will abandon Socket 7 for Slot A with its K7, and
Cyrix will abandon Socket 7 for Slot 1 with its Jalapeno. One way or
another, Socket 7 really is finally dead. There will still be a lot of
Socket 7 CPUs selling into the upgrade market for a while, but my guess is
that Socket 7 motherboard sales are probably drying up even now. And, yes,
I know that Gateway recently jumped onto the Super7 bandwagon. I think
that's a decision they'll rapidly regret. My guess is that Super7 will be
a very short-term fling for them.
The box also contained a Pentium III, which I plan to test exhaustively
once I have some SSE-enabled applications available.
March 11, 1999
I've gotten several messages concerning my comments on AMD. I won't
bother to print them, because they all say pretty much the same thing.
That I'm "unfair" to AMD, "don't like" AMD, or am
"biased in favor of Intel." None of that is true. I've requested
some AMD processors, and once they arrive I'll give them a fair
evaluation. I have an open mind. As I said earlier, I don't trust a lot of
the stuff that's been posted on the web about AMD, pro and con, so I'll do
my own testing and form my own opinions.
AMD versus Intel seems to be a religious issue. If it's not at the same
level of acrimony as NT versus Linux, it at least comes close at times.
So, for the record, here are my thoughts on the matter:
1. I like both AMD and Intel. Everyone I've spoken with at both
companies is professional, and they all seem to be nice people.
2. I'm glad that AMD exists. It is because they exist (and to a lesser
extent because companies like Cyrix and IDT/WinChip exist) that Intel ever
introduced the Celeron. If it wasn't for the competition provided by AMD,
Cyrix, and IDT, Intel would probably have never felt the need to ship such
low-cost, high-performance CPUs. Competition is a Good Thing.
3. I think a great many of AMD's current problems exist because they
feel forced to bring products to market faster than they otherwise would
to counter Intel. If Intel didn't exist, AMD would not have shipped the
K6-III so soon. They'd have taken another six months or whatever to solve
their yield problems before even announcing the K6-III. Of course, if
Intel didn't exist, the K6-III would never have been developed. Again,
competition is a Good Thing.
4. Many of AMD's problems arise because they are married to the Socket
7 platform. Think what you will, but Socket 7 is an inferior technology
relative to Slot 1. There's only so much that can be done within the
framework of the obsolescent Socket 7. AMD has done a superb job of
pushing Socket 7 to its maximum potential. But even AMD recognizes that
Socket 7 is not viable in the long term, as their shift to Slot A with the
K7 indicates. If Slot 1 versions of the K6-2 and K6-III existed, they
would provide serious competition to Intel CPUs. But with Socket 7, AMD is
fighting with one hand tied behind its back.
5. For now at least, I buy Intel processors for myself and recommend
them to others because they offer both the highest performance and the
best bang for the buck. But I keep an open mind. If AMD sends me some
samples, I'll evaluate them on their own merits and report what I learn,
good or bad.
* * * * *
This from Dave Farquhar [firstname.lastname@example.org]:
I can think of one more reason why a
Kyrotech system probably would be *less* stable than an equivalent
system with, say, a Peltier cooler or even just a good-quality CPU fan
and a high-efficiency power supply like PC Power and Cooling sells. The
Kryotech is basically a refrigerator, right? Anyone who's been around
the block a few times knows not to put a PC on the same circuit in the
house as a refrigerator, because the power won't be clean. So, here's a
brilliant idea -- let's merge the two, so they're on the same circuit,
and you can't fix it with a UPS, because the problem is created *after*
These Kryotechs sound to me like toys for people who want excuses to
spend too much money on a computer. I don't want to sound classist, but
I suspect Anand falls into that category -- I know when I was 17, there
was no way I could have afforded the start-up costs necessary to run his
Web site! I can see maybe using one of their Alphas if for some reason I
absolutely have to have a 900 MHz Alpha today for a server, but I'm
loathe to overclock a mission-critical server under any circumstances,
and I'm even more loathe to strap it to a surge-causing refrigerator.
There's one other thing that concerns me about this. Any ideas what kind
of stress this kind of supercooling puts on the solder joints that hold
the CPU in? And what's it do to the case temperature? You don't want a
hard drive to run too hot, but you certainly don't want to be running it
at 40 degrees either, because it wasn't designed to run at that
temperature. The same goes for most of the other internal components.
This idea just raises far too many questions for my liking. And I think
if someone wants to review their products, they need to be asking those
I'd never thought of the power issue, but I suppose you're
right. I seem to recall that the refrigerator has a separate power cord,
so I suppose you could plug it and the PC into different receptacles, but
that's a good point just the same. I don't know anything about Anand's
economic situation. I believe his father is a college professor, so I'd
guess his family is probably middle-class to upper-middle class. I think
he runs his servers locally on an ADSL line, but that's just my
impression. He's generating enough traffic to his site that I'd guess his
ad revenue is more than enough to pay his costs now. As far as running
components cold, I don't think that's a problem. Electronic components are
happier at lower temperatures. Most disk drives are rated to run within
pretty broad ranges. I think 32F/0C to 104F/40C is a pretty common range.
And I agree that Anand needs to be asking Kryotech some hard questions.
But he is just 17 years old, after all.
* * * * *
This from Robert Morgan [email@example.com]:
Good points regarding the AMD vs Intel
battle this morning.
You raise the issue that AMD is hurting
themselves by sticking with Socket 7, and that they'd be better off
moving to Slot 1. As far as I know, that's an Intel-proprietary
architecture that Intel will not allow other cpu makers to use or copy.
If that's true, then Intel is acting to kill
off competition in its market, and they're using their dominant position
to do it. To use your phrase, it is Intel that is tying one of AMD's
hands behind its back.
That's enough to get me to buy AMD, which I
have done personally and professionally. I may not have the fastest cpu,
but I have good components throughout and performance is leap years
beyond what we had with genuine Intel as recently as 18 months ago, with
Pentium 150's and 200's. Except servers, I can't think of any business
application that needs more performance than an AMD 300 - 400 can
provide. To be fair, I could have similar specs and prices with the
I don't know the technical issues that makes
Slot 1 better than Socket 7. The newest AMD is supposed to have cache on
the die, which was the only difference between the two designs that I
knew about. Do you have more to say about the technical differences?
Slot 1 is a proprietary Intel technology, and I don't know
all the issues surrounding it. Given my personal philosophy, I obviously
think that Intel is entitled to do as they please with Slot 1. They
invented it. It's theirs. But in practical terms, I think AMD could
probably license Slot 1 in exchange for a royalty. That's pretty common
practice in the industry, and I know that Cyrix plans a Slot 1 and/or
Socket 370 version of their Jalapeno CPU, presumably under license from
I'm glad that you and millions of others choose to buy AMD
processors. Without that market, AMD could not provide credible
competition to Intel. And you're right about the performance issues. All
modern processors are so fast that it's just a matter of degree. In fact,
I recently swapped the Pentium II/450 in my test-bed system for a
Celeron/333. I'm sure the system is demonstrably slower now, but the truth
is that I can't tell much difference subjectively when running my normal
applications. Same thing with AMD versus Intel. The AMD processors have
excellent integer performance, and a given AMD-based system may in fact be
faster in integer performance than a given Intel system. For those few
that use floating point heavily, the Intel processors are noticeably
As far as the technical issues for Socket 7 versus Slot 1,
I'm not a CPU engineer, but I've been told by people who should know that
Socket 7 is inferior electrically at high speeds. Running a 100 MHz FSB
pushes Socket 7 to its limits. But both Slot 1 and Socket 370 support GTL,
which Socket 7 does not. GTL as implemented currently can easily support
FSB speeds of 133 MHz or more. You're correct that the K6-III brings L2
cache onto the processor itself, eliminating the CPU-memory bus bottleneck
that crimps the performance of other Socket 7 processors. But the real
drawback to Socket 7 at this point is that Intel ceased developing
chipsets for it. The 430TX is their latest Socket 7 chipset, and it
doesn't incorporate many modern features, such as AGP. VIA, ALI, and
others produce full-featured Socket 7 chipsets, but their performance and
stability is a step down from Intel's best. Even the Socket 7 fanatics
admit that Socket 7 motherboards are less stable than Slot 1 motherboards.
And you can't blame Intel for abandoning Socket 7. I'm sure
that part of their reason was to shift the market towards their
proprietary Slot 1 motherboards, chipsets, and CPUs. But that's only part
of the reason. The real reason that Intel introduced Slot 1 was that
they'd about reached the limits of what it was practical to do with Socket
* * * * *
The following from someone who requests anonymity:
article about Libertarians' use of the Web, which examines the FDIC
"Know Your Customer" proposed regulation you referred to
Btw, I guess I'm as responsible as anyone
for Bill Clinton getting elected, as I voted for Browne. I read his book
"How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World" shortly after
graduating from college. He's responsible for making me realize how I
really felt about issues of governance.
I read that book right after it first hit print, which must
be at least twenty years ago. As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure I have
the hardback first edition still around here somewhere. Your message
motivated me to go over and check on Amazon.com. I was expecting to find
that the book was long out of print, but I find that there's now a 25th
edition dated March, 1998. Although I haven't re-read the book in many
years, I remember thinking highly enough of it that I can recommend it
without reservation. If you want to buy a copy, click here
to order it from Amazon.com.
* * * * *
This from Adam Lieber [aslieber@Princeton.EDU]:
If memory serves, I believe that Cyrix is
able to make a slot1 chip because of a technology agreement made between
National Semiconductor and Intel before National Semiconductor bought
Yes, I believe that's correct, although it's by no means
certain that Cyrix will ship the Jalapeno as a Slot 1 CPU. I understand
that they are considering licensing Socket 370 to avoid the high component
costs involved in producing Slot 1 parts.
March 12, 1999
And another sign of Y2K madness is that the confidence men and scam
artists have embraced it. These crooks telephone their victims, usually
elderly people, and convince them that the account their money is
currently in is not Y2K-compliant. To make sure their money is safe, they
have to transfer it into another account which is Y2K-compliant. That
account, of course, belongs to the scammer. I think the death penalty is
about right for the scum who prey on elderly people like this. Or at least
keelhauling. Laws that protect children exist because children are
presumed to be innocent and easily duped. But many elderly people are just
as trusting. Swindling an elderly person out of the money he needs to put
food on the table is inexcusable, or should be.
* * * * *
This from Robert Morgan [firstname.lastname@example.org]:
Sorry, Bob, but you and I see things
differently. As Adam points out, the only reason Cyrix has access to
Slot 1 is from an earlier agreement. To the best of my knowledge, Intel
will not license Slot 1 to AMD.
This industry (like many, if not most,
others) lives and dies on open standards. Slot 1 is not an open
standard. Intel is harming the industry by turning their backs on
I'm all for innovation, and maintaining a
strong company, but I will not willingly support or tolerate that
indifference, even arrogance, to the industry in which I make my living.
I can guarantee we will all pay dearly for it --- we already have.
Well, I'm not sure what to make of your statements. Open
standards are fine, but are you saying that you are entitled to force
Intel to give up their proprietary, patented technology simply because you
feel strongly that it should be an open standard? That doesn't sound
reasonable to me. In fact, it sounds like armed robbery.
I don't know whether or not Intel would agree to license
Slot 1 to AMD, or indeed whether AMD has even explored that option. But
even if AMD wants to produce a Slot 1 processor and Intel refuses to grant
them a license, so what? Slot 1 is Intel's intellectual property, and they
should not be compelled to license it if they don't want to.
It's not like there aren't alternatives. AMD is perfectly
free to create their own competing standard (as they are apparently doing
with Slot A and the K7), and to keep that standard proprietary or to make
it open. I mean, AMD may be David to Intel's Goliath, but AMD is
nevertheless a huge company that sells millions of processors. They
single-handedly ramrodded the Super7 initiative through, and Super7 is now
broadly supported. Personally, I think it was a mistake to focus on Socket
7 instead of spending the same effort on a better technology, but that was
And I'm not sure how the fact that Slot 1 is proprietary
has harmed anyone. There are more processor choices than ever before,
they're cheaper than ever, and it doesn't look like anything is slowing
down innovation in processor architectures. How has Slot 1 hurt anything
* * * * *
This followup from Robert Morgan [email@example.com]:
At no point have I advocated having the
government rush in and "solve" the problem, or allow Intel's
competition to steal technology. I'm frustated with the situation; I'm
not fighting for the destruction of Intel (or Microsoft). Intel (and
Microsoft) can and should innovate, but why must they do so while
creating artificial barriers for everyone else?
There are *not* more processor choices than
ever before. Five years ago, NT ran on Alpha and NEC's chip. NT doesn't
run on NEC's chip anymore, and there's not too many Alphas around
anymore. 486s were produced by many manufacturers. There are no choices
outside Intel for Slot 1 cpus.
The chips are *not* significantly cheaper
than they were five years ago. They run a lot faster, but they're not
cheaper. I don't remember the Pentium being introduced at over $1000,
like the Pentium IIs & IIIs are/were at their introduction. Slot 1
has done nothing to make cpus cheaper or faster.
There are lower price cpus available, but
there has always been much lower prices on second tier cpus. Industrial
486's are sold now for a few dollars, if they haven't already dropped to
Intel does not want lower prices for cpus
and they act agressively to prevent it.
I wish I had the answers but I don't. I'm
just upset by the situation. I truly believe we would be much further
ahead if Intel and Microsoft focused more on innovation than on defense.
Maybe it doesn't matter, and these are
merely the growing pains of a nascent industry. But it doesn't mean I
have to like it.
Well, other than by force majeur, I don't see any way that
Intel could be compelled to give up its property. As far as erecting
barriers, that's what businesses do. All businesses. That's the whole
point behind copyright, patent, and trademark law. The idea is that a
person or a company who devotes resources to developing a marketable idea
should be be granted a monopoly of limited term to enjoy revenue from that
innovation. Without that protection, there is no economic incentive to
innovate. The fundamental purpose of Intel, AMD, Microsoft, or any other
business is to create revenues and profits. Why would they not do
everything they can to protect their innovations and their turf?
I think there are indeed many more processor choices than
there used to be. Five years ago, NT ran on Intel, MIPS, Alpha, and
PowerPC chips (I'm not sure what your reference to NEC means.) NT still
runs on all four of those platforms. It is true that Microsoft will not
support the MIPS or PowerPC chips in NT5, but that's a market decision. No
one (almost literally) was buying NT for those platforms. And I'm not sure
what those chips have to do with anything. They're certainly not
mainstream processors by anyone's definition.
But look at the mainstream chips. Ten years ago, you had
one choice, the 386. Five years ago, you had two choices, the 486 or the
Pentium. That was it. You ran on an Intel architecture, whether that
processor was made by Intel or another company like Harris or AMD.
Nowadays, you can choose among many variants of the Intel P6 processors,
the AMD K6, the Cyrix MediaGX or MII, the IDT WinChip, and a couple of
other new players which haven't yet made their marks. These are all
different processors, not just second-sourced processors made from Intel
And if you don't remember the Pentium at $1,000, I
certainly do. Everyone introduces their newest high-end chips at the
highest price they can charge to take advantage of early adopters. That's
just the nature of the business. When Intel ships the Merced or AMD ships
the K7, you can bet they'll be $1,000+ processors (probably $3,000 in the
case of Merced). That helps pay off the huge up-front costs that they
incurred to design the chip and build the fab.
And Slot 1 has indeed done things, if indirectly, to make
processors both cheaper and faster. Even disregarding the lower value of
the dollar now versus a few years ago, today's processors are much
cheaper. Today, you can go out and buy a Celeron for $70 that has
literally 90% of the power of Intel's fastest and most expensive desktop
processor. Five years ago, $70 wouldn't have bought you nearly that much
in relative terms, let alone absolute terms.
* * * * *
This from Dave Farquhar [firstname.lastname@example.org]:
The economic situation comment may have been
a little out of line, but I know he was originally at Pair. I know I
looked into the cost of hosting at Pair as part of my senior project in
college; a site the magnitude of his never was cheap. I'm sure the ad
revenue now more than makes up for that, but it was certainly a question
mark back when he got started. My senior project was a pair of online
'zines, one dedicated to classic 8-bit computers, and the other
dedicated strictly to hardware upgrades. I never had serious intentions
of launching them, and the start-up costs, plus the time involved scared
me off so I took the best standard 9-to-5 job offer I had, and opted to
spend the time those projects would have eaten up pursuing other
Anand's financial ability to do something at
17 that I didn't think viable at 22 suggests to me that he tends to look
at higher-tier PCs than I do, and I tend to assume that the average
person would rather spend less on any given PC than I spend.
But I do think there's a big difference
between quality and speed. I do wish Anand would spend less time trying
to make sure he has some new review online every day and instead put one
or two high-quality pieces up per week. The people he's constantly
apologizing to need to remember something: It's his site; maintaining a
site of that size takes considerable time; and it ain't cheap. What do
these people he's apologizing to think he owes them? I wish Anand would
be asking Kryotech the questions I asked, but I don't necessarily think
he owes it to me.
I agree with your observations on Anand, but what it really
boils down to is that Anand runs a hobby site. Running a web site isn't
exactly cheap, but it's not really that expensive, either. At least in
terms of providing the required infrastructure via a web hosting service.
Before professional web hosting services like pair Networks became
available, it cost several thousand dollars a month to host a real web
site, most of that for connectivity and equipment.
Nowadays, you can host a pretty serious site with a lot of
traffic for $25 or $50 a month. Something on the scale of Tom's Hardware,
which recently passed 1,000,000 page reads/day, probably costs several
thousand dollars a month to host. But that's with several co-located web
servers at pair. Just as an example of what can be done with a fairly
inexpensive web hosting account, in terms of disk storage and traffic
allowance, Pournelle's site would probably fit in the pair Networks
Advanced category, which costs less than $20/month and provides 40 MB of
disk space and 200 MB of daily traffic. If not, he'd certainly fit in the
Webmaster category, which costs about $30/month, and provides 80 MB of
disk space and 400 MB of daily traffic.
* * * * *
Barbara found a place that gets my vote for the strange web site of the
week, and maybe the year:
You have to have audio and animation enabled to get the full effect.
March 13, 1999
Yesterday evening Pournelle and I got down to serious work on our book.
I sent Jerry a first-draft chapter. He went through the first five pages
or so, annotating it, making adds, changes, and deletions. Like any
co-authors who've never worked together before, the first thing on the
agenda is developing a working relationship that suits both of us. I
suspect that won't be too hard. We're both pretty flexible, and our
writing styles seem reasonably compatible. Barbara looked over Jerry's
comments and changes, and agreed with all of them. I did too, come to
This morning, Jerry sent me another copy of the chapter with more work
completed. Barbara and I laughed out loud at some of the war stories he'd
added. Pournelle's perspective is priceless. This is going to be a great
book. People are going to use it as a reference, certainly, but a lot of
people will sit down and read it cover-to-cover like a novel. Pournelle is
* * * * *
I see mention on Tom
Syroid's page this morning that Microsoft may be porting Office to
Linux. That seems bizarre to me. Office is a major cash cow for Microsoft,
so it is understandable that they want to sell as many copies as possible.
But Office is also the crown jewel that locks people into Windows. Two
major factors prevent Linux from becoming a mainstream desktop operating
system. One, obviously, is that Linux apparently attended the Muggers'
School of User Friendliness. An average user can't even format a floppy
disk under Linux, let alone do something as complicated as connecting it
to the Internet. But that's relatively easy to address via a graphic shell
and wizard-like scripts, and there are any number of those in development
right now. The real barrier to widespread adoption of Linux for the
desktop is the dearth of mainstream productivity applications--read
Office--available for it.
Microsoft would be foolish to make Office available for Linux. They'll
not sell many copies. The mindset among Linux users is that software
should be free, and I suspect a Linux version of Office would be pirated
very heavily. Right now, Microsoft makes most of its Office revenue from
bundling deals with computer vendors, and that's obviously not a factor
with Linux. So it seems to me that if Microsoft wants to reduce sales of
both NT and Office, the best way to do it is to port Office to Linux.
Somehow, I don't think that's going to happen.
* * * * *
Bo Leuf talks about the joys of dealing with the Swedish tax authority
site this morning. He requested a minor change in his tax status, and
they sent him a form. Some time later he got another copy of the same
form. They keep sending him the same form over and over, and can't explain
why that's happening.
But it's not just governments that do this. I had a similar experience
almost 15 years ago when I was working at an Entré Computer Center.
Ashton-Tate had some kind of promotion for computer store employees. You
had to read their literature about the newly released dBASE III Plus and
then take a simple quiz about product features. You then faxed your
answers to AT, and they were supposed to send you a free live copy of
dBASE III Plus. At the time it cost something like $400, so it was worth
spending a few minutes to get one's own copy. They had a similar deal for
a long-forgotten integrated product called Framework, which competed with
Lotus's long-forgotten Symphony.
So, I sat down, spent ten minutes reading the promo literature for both
products, completed the quiz, faxed it in, and started waiting. They'd
promised they'd send the product out immediately, so by the time a week
had passed I was getting concerned. My co-workers had already gotten their
copies, but I hadn't. So I called Ashton-Tate. A week later, still no joy.
I called again, and they again promised they'd take care of it. A week or
so later, a copy of DBIII+ and a copy of Framework showed up for me. The
next day, another copy. The next day, two more copies. After a week, I had
half a dozen copies of DBIII+ and I think three copies of Framework. I
kept calling AT to tell them what was going on, and they kept telling me
they'd stop it, but it took quite a while. After a month or so, I ended up
with about a dozen copies of dBIII+ and half that many Frameworks. AT said
it'd be more trouble than it was worth to have me send them back, so I
ended up giving copies away to everyone I knew.
* * * * *
This from Bruce Denman email@example.com
Morning! No weather comments today...well;
okay; its sunny here <g>
I have been following your ongoing threads
on AMD, Anand, and Tom with interest. I do think you need to run some
AMD K6s ...wish someone would come thru on their promises on supply. I
would love to see you seup two otherwise identical systems save
comparable processors (speed and/or price) and have some folks test them
blindly on standards apps. Benchmark numbers are one thing; actual hands
on and comments would be invaluable.
"Tom" seems to be on vacation
still so no recent update (not sure why I bother). "Anand";
well; I skimmed his latest Kyrotech article. Gave up when I saw he was
"promoting" their $400 version of a room temp cooler.
Perhaps we need some input on some other
hardware related sites to visit.
Immediately followed by:
Oops. I failed to dig deeper into Tom's
hardware. There is a TNT2 update dated today. Please ignore my earlier
display of ignorance.
Well, despite the fact that Tom posted a TNT2 update today,
you have a good point. I think the last time his site was updated in any
significant way was on February 22. Oh, if you do a refresh every morning,
you'll find that the date changes to today's date, but the only change you
usually see is a couple of lame "news" items. As far as I'm
concerned, Tom's Hardware is like the old joke about soap operas. You can
visit it once a month and not miss much.
You're right about the date at the top it is
meaningless when it comes to his site updates. I looked at the
"monday column" item on the upper left and saw it was still
several weeks old. After I sent my email to you I revisited to make sure
nothing else was under the "new" link (in left hand table) and
then discovered the TNT2 item. Which I then noticed back on the first
page. major duh. I keep going back but I don't have a clue why other
than stupidity (or boredom).
BTW, I glanced at the article briefly; then
went to the conclusion. Got a chuckle that the chip is not due for
widespread distribution till next month. So assume (careful; dangerous
word) the boards were not yet true production models. I did see on one
pic had a nice fan on its processor.
Well, the link may not have been there the first time you
visited. I seem to remember that it wasn't there the first time I checked.
It appeared later in the day.
* * * * *
This from Dave Farquhar [firstname.lastname@example.org]:
I thought I'd run this one by you, seeing as
you're writing a hardware book and may have come across something on it.
Any ideas on what kinds of things can cause a system to spontaneously
reboot? I've seen very early Cyrix 6x86 systems do it when they
overheated, usually after extended sessions of page layout with
QuarkXPress. The best indication we had was that the CPUs were
Now, a friend is telling me his system's
doing the same thing. This is a bit odd -- he's running a Cyrix 6x86L,
which runs much cooler than the original 6x86 did. And his system has
excellent cooling. I doubt it's due to overheating.
The one common link I see here is Cyrix, but
I've run several Cyrix-based systems without any problems whatsoever.
I did make one suggestion. He's not running
a UPS, and I suggested that maybe he should be. I could see a sag in
voltage make the system reboot -- but would it have to be one big enough
to dim the lights?
There are a lot of things that can cause spontaneous
reboots, but by far the most common are memory problems and power supply
problems. All chips prefer cooler temperatures to warmer ones, and higher
voltages to lower ones (within limits, of course). Although an overheating
CPU can certainly cause reboots, I doubt that's what's happening here.
Of course, it's worth checking to make sure that
ventilation isn't blocked, the CPU fan is running, etc. before trying
anything else, but I think the most likely cause is the power supply.
Cyrix chips are used most often in inexpensive systems, and those systems
tend to have cheap power supplies. There might be a couple things related
to the power supply that could be causing the problem:
First, of course, it may simply be failing. That's not
surprising by any means, because many mass-market systems built on Cyrix
chips use the cheapest power supplies available.
Another possibility is that it simply can't supply adequate
amperage at one or more voltages. You can't simply look at the gross
wattage rating to determine this, either. You have to look at the
individual amperage ratings for different voltages, which many cheap power
supplies don't even list. Even if you can find this information, it may
not do you much good, because you also need to know the amperage required
by each component at each voltage. But if your friend has added an
expansion card or other peripheral, it may be that the combined load now
exceeds the ability of the power supply on one or more voltages. You can
do a field expedient check on this by removing all cards and disconnecting
all drives that aren't absolutely necessary and running the system without
them. If it runs without rebooting, chances are that you simply have too
much installed for the power supply to support.
Before you swap out the power supply, however, it'd be
worth checking the other likely cause. If you have a known-good memory
module, try swapping it in and seeing if the problem goes away. If it
does, the memory may be failing. Generally, memory lasts forever, but it's
possible for a power spike to damage memory without destroying it
completely. Note that a damaged memory module may function properly when
plenty of power is available, but begin to act hinky when the power supply
* * * * *
And Dave then had this to say:
Interesting observations. This is a system
we built, and my philosophy on system building has always been to buy
good stuff, but always buy the least expensive CPU that will do the job
well, seeing as CPU prices depreciate faster than anything else. If you
think you really need a PII-450 but a Celeron-333 will do the job, get
the Celeron because the PII-450 will be selling for half as much this
summer, and paired up with a ton of memory and a fast hard drive, the
less expensive CPU may well outperform systems with faster CPUs but
slower supporting components. So that's how he ended up with a Cyrix
The power supply isn't top of the line like
a PC Power and Cooling, but I believe it's an Enlight, 235W. I know we
used an Enlight case. The overload is a possibility -- he has three hard
drives and most of his slots are full. He may be pushing the limits
harder than I thought he was.
Swapping out the memory is no problem, so
I'll try that as well.
Thanks for the advice.
Umm. I think I see your problem. There's no way that any
235 watt power supply, let alone an inexpensive one, is going to handle
three hard drives, a CD-ROM, a floppy, a cage full of expansion cards, a
fan or two and whatever else you have connected. That poor power supply
sounds like it's running at 100% (or more) of its capacity. I try to run
power supplies at no more than 60% of their rated capacity, and preferably
less. They run cooler, provide cleaner power, and last a lot longer.
When I built my current main system, I was going to buy the
PC Power & Cooling 235 watt unit. When I told Larry Aldridge that I
might run as many as three hard drives, he told me he didn't recommend
their 235 watt unit for that application. I ended up with a TurboCool 300.
Try disconnecting a couple of the hard drives and pulling as many cards as
you can. I'll bet the spontaneous reboots stop. Then again, with all that
stuff in the case (I presume it's a mini-tower), you may indeed have a
March 14, 1999
I see in the paper this morning that Crayola is changing the name of
one of their crayon colors for only the third time ever. They changed the
name of Prussian Blue in 1958, apparently because most kids didn't know
where Prussia was. In 1962, they changed the name Flesh to Peach,
belatedly acknowledging that not everyone is Caucasian. Now they're going
to rename the color currently called Indian Red. Apparently, some people
are upset, believing that this crayon color refers to the skin color of
Native American Indians. According to Crayola, the color was named after a
dye produced on the Indian subcontinent of Asia. But they don't want to
offend anyone, so they're holding a contest to rename the color. I've
already suggested Politically Correct Red, so that one is taken.
* * * * *
Before I forget, does anyone know a URL or other contact
information for the company that makes the ATX test-bed chassis that was
mentioned on Pournelle's site some months ago? He can't remember it, and I
can't find it. This is a specialized testing chassis that allows swapping
motherboards, drives, and other components in and out easily. I'd like to
get one of these, but I've been unable to locate any information about it.
* * * * *
Internet Explorer 5 is about to drive me mad. I have to keep reminding
myself that it is just a beta, and a pretty good looking beta at that. But
the one thing that I simply can't work around is the way it handles
multiple instances. While I'm writing, I frequently have multiple web
pages--sometimes as many as a dozen--active in separate instances of IE.
When I want to do another search or hit another web page, I fire up a new
instance. The problem is that IE insists on loading the new web page on
one of the older instances, replacing what I wanted to keep there.
This doesn't happen if I actually type the URL into the box. It happens
only when I use a Favorite to get to the new site. For example, if I want
to call up a new instance of NorthernLight, I can start a new instance of
IE5, type in www.northernlight.com,
press Enter, and everything is fine. Northern Light loads in the new
instance of IE5. But if I call up a new instance of IE5 and click
the Northern Light favorite menu entry, the new instance of Northern Light
comes up in an older instance of IE5. ARGGGHHHH.
Same thing if I start a New Window instead of double-clicking IE on my
desktop. The new window comes up with contents duplicating the old Window.
If I then click on a favorite, it loads, but IN THE ORIGINAL WINDOW RATHER
THAN THE NEW ONE.
But playing around with IE5 got me to thinking about using its
Subscription feature, which is now called Off-line Browsing. I believe
that IE4 had pretty much the same feature, but I never used it because I
never did figure out what subscriptions were. I remember thinking that
they must have something to do with Channels and push technology, which I
wasn't even slightly interested in.
But the name change to Off-line Browsing made it clear to me what this
feature was all about, so I tried it. I played around with it a bit on
Friday, but yesterday I got serious about it. I decided to set up Chaos
Manor, Tom's Hardware, and AnandTech for off-line browsing. After the
downloads finished, all 115 MB of them, I had complete copies of those
three web sites on my local hard disk. I told the off-line browsing
process to go three levels deep on each site, which is the greatest depth
it allows. So I'm not sure if it got everything on all of the sites, but
it got quite a lot.
Just out of curiosity, after the scheduled updates completed, I decided
to re-run them immediately to see how much (or how little) would be
required to update the sites immediately after I'd just done so. I learned
a couple of interesting things. The first very interesting thing is that
if you want your site to be effectively unusable by off-line browsers, you
should use dynamic content rather than static content.
Pournelle's content, for example, is completely static. His server
doesn't generate pages on the fly. The original update totalled about 20
MB from his site. When I turned around and re-ran an update immediately,
it took only a minute or two to complete, and transferred only about 20 KB
worth of data. Obviously, what's happening here is that IE5 is loading and
parsing the site tree, checking file names and timestamps (and presumably
file sizes) against some sort of hashed database that it maintains
I was more concerned about what would happen when I tried updating
Tom's Hardware and AnandTech. Rightly so, as it turned out. AnandTech is
essentially all dynamic content. His server actually generates each page
on the fly and sends it to your browser. As I suspected, when I started
the re-update process for AnandTech, it started to reload every single
page it had just loaded an hour or less before. I feared the same would
happen with Tom's Hardware, but it didn't, or at least not completely.
Apparently, much of Tom's Hardware actual content is static. But he has a
lot of links to banner ads and so forth, which are generated/rotated on
the fly. The upshot was, an immediate re-update of Tom's Hardware took
about 15 minutes and resulted in downloading about a megabyte, most of
that useless banner ad data.
What I'd hoped to do was set up a scheduled update for each site that
would suck down only the new information every morning about 6:00 a.m.
That'd work fine for Jerry's site, marginally well for Tom's Hardware, and
not at all for AnandTech. So much for dynamic versus static content. I
guess the fact that dynamic content is essentially unusable for off-line
browsing might be considered a Good Thing from some people's point of view
(particularly banner advertisers, who'd be paying for a lot of
click-throughs that no one would ever actually see). But it's a Bad Thing
from my point of view as a user.
* * * * *
My friend Steve Tucker recently brought up his own web site, Wakeolda.com.
We were sitting around talking the other night about how best to drive
traffic to a new site. That's important to me as well, and I suppose that
I really should be doing more to increase the traffic to this site. At any
rate, I told Steve that the key thing is unique content. A bunch of family
pictures and a set of links isn't going to attract anyone to speak of.
Steve's in a unique position to create content for which there is great
demand. He works in Sports Marketing Enterprises for R. J. Reynolds. Steve
used to be responsible for the NASCAR Winston Cup auto racing series. A
couple of years ago, he moved to a position where he deals not just with
Winston Cup, but with all of the RJR sports marketing programs, including
drag racing, motorcycle racing, and so on. For years, Steve has been on a
first-name basis with all of the folks involved, from drivers to owners to
sponsors. Steve and Suzy are long-time friends of NASCAR Royalty, people
like the Pettys, Earnhardts, Gordons, Waltrips, and Jarretts.
I told Steve that a lot of people would love to read what he has to say
about things from his perspective on the inside. He's started a journal,
and my guess is that he'll become as addicted to writing it as the rest of
us are to writing ours. If you have any interest at all in auto racing,
check out Steve's page. He's just now getting started, but my guess is
that it'll develop into something fascinating.
* * * * *
This from Roger G. Smith [email@example.com]:
I'd have to agree that "... a lot of
people will sit down and read it cover-to-cover like a novel." I'll
probably be one of them... Yes, "Pournelle is that good" and
you're no slouch, yourself.
I still remember the small computer (book?
series?) that Pournelle did back in the mystic eons of time, when using
small computers meant things like CP/M as your OS.
I'm looking forward to this one.
Thanks for the kind words. I was just thinking the other
night how things work out. In 1979, I was helping my brother move from one
apartment to another. When we arrived at the new apartment, it was
completely empty with one exception. There was a copy of Lucifer's Hammer
lying in the middle of the living room floor. I'd never heard of
Pournelle. Being an inveterate reader, once we got everything hauled up
the stairs and into the apartment, I flopped down and started reading the
book. I was delighted to have found a "new" author that I
enjoyed reading so much.
I remember thinking--lying there on the carpet using a
cardboard box as a pillow--that I would like to someday write a book with
this man. Even then, I wanted to write for a living. I don't know why I
fixed on Pournelle rather than Niven. The unique name, perhaps. I'd never
read anything by either of them, so they were both just names to me. So
here it is twenty years later and I'm writing a book with Pournelle. Not
fiction as I imagined then, true, but a book nonetheless.
* * * * *
This from Joshua Boyd [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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.
That is one of the appealing parts of Open
Soure Software. If you were to use emacs (the worlds most powerful text
editor, albeit hard to learn), you could check the code to see what
happening (Note: I'm not recommend that you switch from Word to emacs,
although emacs is where I do most of my writing).
As far as the NY Times web site goes, just
use [login/password removed--RBT]
when accessing it. I've registered many times, and I just got sick of
always reregistering because I couldn't remeber the strange login/passwd
pair that I created, so I use the above pair instead.
I keep Office 95 on my notebook mainly to
convert from MS products to more open file formats (I haven't been able
to get linux on the sucker), but I don't have it on any of my other
computers. Increasingly I use linux for everything because I value my
security and privacy. There is little other than games that I find I am
sacrificing (and besides, without as many games to play I get more
done), although getting things to work can be a major pain (it took me 4
hours to get my graphics tablet working under linux, and I still haven't
gotten the gtk package (kinda like MFC) configured to support presure
Of course, in addition to privacy and
security, I also can tear apart and rebuild things in any way I like (I
know, I know, this isn't something that appeals to normal people but
still). Just the other day, I was able to write an address book
application that works with most command line mail programs, and
hopefully it will soon also work with graphical ones as well. But the
way this program works just wouldn't be possible under windows because
of closed everything is.
Good points, and I actually used to use emacs. But that's
not really an alternative for me any more. When I was young, I used to
laugh at people whose cars had automatic transmissions and air
conditioning. What wimps. I drove a Jeep CJ. Nowadays, I've joined the
automatic transmission/air conditioning crowd. But I have nothing but
respect for people like you, who grab Linux, wrestle it to the ground, and
make it do what they want it to. But I just don't have the time to deal
with it, much though I'd like to. I can still sit down in front of a Linux
system and function at some minimal level, but nowadays cat, ls, and pwd
are more my speed than recompiling a kernel.
* * * * *
Another from Joshua Boyd [email@example.com]
First, about refrigerated computers. You are
absolutly correct, of course, that this is a pointless thing to do to a
AMD chip. However, it has potential for software that forces you to pay
per CPU (Mental Ray, used with by Catia and Softimage, requires two
$3000 licenses be purchased for a dual processor box). There if you
could clock a 667mhz Alpha to 1Ghz, the refrigeration unit could
potentially pay for itself in savings on software. But then again, maybe
it wouldn't. Either way, a refrigeration unit is obviously not something
that would benefit the everyday person in anyway (unless they want to
keep milk in there with their CPU).
As far as using AMD as a gaming chip goes, a
K6-3 would probably be my first choice, allowing me to spend more money
on SCSI drives, better graphics cards (I would probably pick a Csnopus
Riva TNT card, and a Canopus or Diamond 12mb Voodoo 2 card.), better
sound, and so on. On board integeter DSP instructions don't help as much
as 3D cards do, and my understanding is that SSE is still only integer
math. For a main workstation, my first choice still lies with Intel
(because only Intel does SMP). Computers put together for playing games
usually have to make price tradeoffs, which is exactly why the K6-3 is
gaining popularity in that area (of course, when making price tradeoffs,
the refrigeration unit would be the first thing to go).
Personally, I don't intend to buy
refrigeration units nor PIIIs for a good long time. I'd rather save my
money and get a SMP machine with slightly slower CPUs when I get my next
computer (this should be this summer). I also would like to put together
a new server here (I'd probably rebuild my current P200 into a server
with some sort of raid unit).
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.
If this gulls you, then why did you include
a link to her site?
Well, yes, refrigeration has always been used to improve
CPU performance. I remember the old Cray *MP series. They were basically
enveloped by a refrigeration unit. And you're correct that software
licensed on a per CPU basis could make refrigeration a cost-effective
solution. But it's not a PC technology. Of course, the PIII serial number
may yet allow PC software manufacturers to license by CPU type, speed, and
number. That's what worries me about the PIII serialization more than
I can't really speak to gaming chips, because I'm not a
gamer. However, I'd think that an overclocked $70 Celeron 300/A would give
you a lot more bang for the buck than a $500 K6-III. As far as gaming, AMD
lives and dies on 3DNow!, and I understand that they're not having a lot
of success getting game software manufacturers to include it. My guess is
that the next generation of Celerons will be based on the PIII core, will
include SSE, and will be well supported by game software. But again, this
isn't my area of expertise.
And I agree about SMP. For my purposes, at least, a dual
Pentium II/300 box blows the doors off a single-CPU Pentium II/450 or any
other single processor box you care to name. But that's not always true.
Windows NT itself does a pretty good job of spreading the load across
multiple processors, but if you're running a single program that is not
multi-threaded with SMP in mind, it'll run faster on a fast single
processor machine than on an SMP NT box. As far as RAID, take a look at
the Promise FastTrak IDE RAID controller. I'm doing a long-term evaluation
of one right now, and will have a report about it posted Real Soon Now.
I'm currently running four 10 GB Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 2500 drives in a
RAID 0+1 arrangement. It's wicked fast, and all data is fully mirrored for
safety. And at less than $1,000 for the controller and all four drives, it
beats traditional RAID solutions all hollow on price.
As far as Ms. Miller, I posted her URL because after she
savaged Pournelle's site I thought some people might get a giggle from
seeing what she considers to be a well-designed site.
* * * * *
This from Bo Leuf [firstname.lastname@example.org]:
Just a short reflection on the MS Office in
The traditional MS stance has always seemed
to be "assimilate and extend as proprietary". We've seen this
time and time again, as MS realizes that some standard or platform or
new application area may possibly become a market threat. Then the
options are either to forge in and create new standards, or assimilate
existing standards and creatively extend them so that customers can be
tied to the MS fold.
The "news" that MS may be
positioning Office as a Linux package (non Open Source) may reflect just
that, an attempt to "assimilate" the potential future Linux
threat. In the event, I would not at all be surprised to later see MS
kernel patches start appearing to allow newer MS Office Linux versions
to achieve full optimization under Linux. And if other application
should break under such patches, too bad, but that's not MS' problem,
especially since you are free to recompile your own kernel... :)
Just 2-bits of speculation on a Sunday
You may well be right. I confess that I don't know as much
about Linux and Open Source issues as I probably should. But I suspect
that Microsoft would have a very difficult time co-opting Linux. In the
past, they've had an identifiable target to attack. Linux is too diffuse.