Week of 4/26/99
Sunday, May 02, 1999 09:45
A (mostly) daily
journal of the trials, tribulations, and random observations of Robert
Bruce Thompson, a writer of computer books.
April 26, 1999
If you didn't read the updates last weekend,
check back to last week. I posted quite a lot
of interesting new stuff Saturday and Sunday.
As I've mentioned previously, I read a lot of books. Over the last
thirty years, I've probably averaged one a day. Nowadays, when I'm on
deadline, that may drop to a couple or three books a week, but I try to
make up for that when I take a day off by munching through several that
day. I read a lot of "serious" non-fiction books, but I also
read a lot of novels.
Sometimes, not often, I stumble across an author whom I think may be
destined for greatness. I found one such author recently. Her name is
Caroline Llewellyn, and she writes some of the best mysteries I've read in
years. New novelists usually need to write several books before they
master their craft. The highest praise a new author can normally expect is
to have his book reviewed as a "good first novel." That means
the reviewer is making allowances for the author's inexperience, but
thinks that author shows promise. I sometimes go back and re-read all of
the books written by one of my favorite authors, and the progression from
early efforts to mastery is almost always obvious.
That progression is not evident with Ms. Llewellyn's books, or perhaps
I should say that it's not yet apparent. I've been unable to locate a copy
of her first book, but her second and third books are superbly crafted. If
indeed she does improve, she will truly stand in the first rank of
novelists. As it is, I think her early work compares favorably to that of
some of the best current novelists.
As Iíve also mentioned previously, I collect ultra-modern first
editions. Ms. Llewellyn is not prolific, which is perhaps part and parcel
of the quality of her work. Only her latest novel, False Light, is
still in print, and I plan to buy a copy or two for my collection. If you
want to do the same, you can get that book from Amazon.com by clicking here.
Her earlier novels are available only in the used book market, so Iím
going to have to track down perfect copies of all her other first
editions. I notice that some are already selling for considerably more
than their original list price, which is a good sign.
* * * * *
This from Rick Boatright [firstname.lastname@example.org]:
Well, we just brought out in-house NW5 system up this weekend.
Since our NW4 system was the result of a series of upgrades from
netware 1 version 4.16 to Nw 2.2, to 3.0 to 3.1, to several more 3.x's
to 4, to 4.1 to 4.11, we decided it was time to really clean house,
and build a new NDS system from scratch. We did that, then installed
NDS for NT on our in-house nt 4 application server, and let it
synchronize with the NW5 server, and Viola!!! Treble music!
Of course, you're right, NW folks don't buy as many books. They
don't NEED to. :-) But there is some reality in the thought that the
surge of NT books on the market made NT get a lot of MINDSHARE and
that lead to marketshare...
As for unixware, without Novell pushing folks to write applications
for it, it languished. The _real_ reason NT has been so popular is
that in "small" networks, it doesn't demand a dedcated
server, you can continue to operate peer to peer with your NT server
box as the "best workstation on the lan" and far to many
NW is a damn near perfect file server, it does backups WAY better
than NT ever did. Netware border manager is a FINE internet gateway,
and works better than wingate etc have ever done,
Iím not sure that authors had a lot to do with the success of NT4. We
tend simply to write the books that people want to buy. It was Novellís
hideously incompetent marketing that allowed NT to gain a foothold. Novell
started with nearly complete market dominance, had a killer product in
NetWare 4.1ómuch better than NT4 in most respectsóand yet failed to
get that message across to buyers. But now, having once been handed a
pearl of immeasurable price by Novellís failure to execute in the
marketing realm, Microsoft seems determined to hand it right back with
their failure to execute in the technical realm. Had Microsoft shipped a
stable, full-featured NT5 by mid-1998, Novell would probably not have
recovered. As things stand now, I believe it is the future of Windows NT
that is in doubt.
April 27, 1999
I just found a new search engine called EZResults. Actually, it found
me. I noticed going through my web log that spider.easyresults.com had
sucked down 224 pages, which is the whole of my site. Half expecting it to
be some email address sucking program, I hit http://easyresults.com
and found that it was a new search engine, or new to me at least.
EZResults has some drawbacksóI can't find a way to search for a
phrase, for exampleóbut its database is very up-to-date, and that counts
for a lot. The home page states "Other search engines take days or
weeks to add new pages or change existing pages. EZResult allows you to
add or update your web page instantly." I tested that claim and
found it to be the literal truth.
Yesterday, I mentioned the author Caroline Llewellyn for the first
time. I was pretty sure I had never used the word "llewellyn" on
any of my pages, so I did a search using d:ttgnet.com llewellyn as
the search string. The d:ttgnet.com part tells it to limit the search to
pages within the ttgnet.com domain, and the word(s) that follow tell
filter the results with an implicit AND linking the search words. The
search engine returned zero hits, because it had not parsed my site since
I added that page this morning.
So I went to their Add URL page and added this week's page. I then hit
the back button in my browser and re-did the search. Sure enough, that
page showed up in the search results. It couldnít have been more than a
couple of seconds between the time I added the page and when I re-ran the
search, so "instantly" is a fair statement of how quickly
EZResults adds and indexes pages.
The fact that manual updates are instant is all well and good, but it
remains to be seen how frequently their spider indexes sites routinely. I
keep hoping that some search engine someday will start using a spider thatís
smart enough to keep track of how frequently sites are updated and
schedule passes accordingly. So far, I donít know of one. Perhaps
EZResults will be the first.
EZResults also makes up for some of its search syntax weaknesses
relative to other search engines by using word stemming intelligently. I
found that simply by entering a phrase in normal order, omitting stop
words like "the" and "and" allowed me to locate
occurrences of that phrase without much problem. The size of the index is
also reasonable. When I was using it last night, I seem to remember that
it was listing its index size in the 34 million page range somewhere,
although I don't remember where exactly. When I checked this morning, it
was up to 35,158,486 pages indexed. The jury is still out on this new
search engine, but it appears to be one to keep an eye on.
* * * * *
This from Chuck Waggoner [email@example.com]:
I know you are anxious to eliminate all
media advertising and pay for everything, but--after years of working in
advertising-supported television and on the fringes of newspaper
publishing--it's hard for me to see that ever coming about.
Dow Jones' 'Wall Street Journal' has had one
of the few pay sites that has attracted any significant money, and
apparently it's not smooth sailing, as they are soon to start an
additional free site--see Monday New York Times online article.
We're all accustomed to sour grapes coming
from the competition, but I've been tracking this pay vs. free issue in
my trade magazines for some time, and from my reading, the following
quote in the article from a top CBS executive seems dead-on.
"They're in a bind," said Larry
Kramer, the chief executive of CBS Marketwatch. "They understood
when they made their product part of the paid tier that they were giving
away the mass market. The advertising dollars from the mass market have
come in a lot faster than subscription dollars.
"They've created yet another brand
name," he added. "That's the opposite of the way you should go
on the Web."
Newspapers learned long ago that there
was more money in selling advertisements than they could get from
readers. Public Television is facing the same dilemma, and I suspect
they will eventually be permitted to run full-length commercials,
although less frequently than commercial TV, as they definitely are not
getting enough money from their viewers to sustain their faster rising
Intrusive as they are, and as upset as it
makes me to pay upwards of $60 for software like Quicken which then
makes you look at ads, I think we're in for a long future of this kind
of thing. Some months ago, you indicated surprise that books haven't
added ads. Surely it can't be long before that happens, too.
And it's going to be interesting to see what
happens with the WSJ's pay site--a slow death, maybe?
--Chuck Waggoner [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Well, it's not so much that I want to eliminate all
advertising as that I want to have a choice. I see advertising getting its
grubby mitts on more stuff nowadays, rather than less. The Greater
Greensboro Open is now the Great Greensboro Chrysler Classic, although
that's at least better than the name when K-Mart was sponsoring it. We now
have 3Com Stadium, for God's sake. Where will it end? With all of us
walking around with ads tattooed on our foreheads?
PBS is already running real ads. I was shocked not long ago
when I tuned into Mystery and found that Travellers' Insurance was running
ads before and after the episode. I saw another one somewhere else on PBS,
this one by an investment company. And it was the exact same ad they were
running on commercial TV. I'll never contribute another cent to public
television. The periodic begging was bad enough, but running actual
commercials crosses the line.
The same is true for American Movie Classics. I couldn't
believe it a couple of months ago when I started to watch a movie on AMC
and it began with a commercial. So far, both PBS and AMC are running
commercials only before and after the content. But that won't last long.
Soon, they'll have commercial interruptions just like regular TV.
In the end, I don't really care. I don't need television.
I'd be perfectly happy without it. The best television show or movie ever
made pales in comparison to even a mediocre book. I'd much sooner spend a
couple hours reading a book than waste it watching television or a movie.
April 28, 1999
The newspaper this morning says that hundreds of thousands of PCs
world-wide were wiped out by the Chernobyl virus. Interestingly, it may be
that the author of Melissa actually did a back-handed favor for a lot of
people. By creating a relatively benign virus, he got a lot of people
thinking about viruses and caused a lot of PCs to be scanned that wouldn't
otherwise have been.
* * * * *
The Register reports
this morning that the Pentium III/550 is a a very hot processor,
literally. Apparently, several people who have samples and who are not
honoring the May 16 embargo date for releasing information about the
Pentium III/550 have reported that it runs very hot. That's not really
surprising. For a year or more, informed opinion has been that 550 MHz is
about the absolute limit for the 0.25 micron process that Intel uses for
the Celeron, Pentium II, and Pentium III. Many have speculated that the
Pentium III/550 would never have been produced except as a stopgap
intended to bridge the unexpected delay in the Camino chipset and the
newer generation Pentium III CPUs it will support. My guess is that Intel
doesn't really plan to sell a lot of Pentium III/550 CPUs, but will simply
introduce it as a placeholder in the MHz wars. The real workhorses will be
the new generation Pentium III CPUs that will ship with the Camino.
* * * * *
I see that Anand is finally starting to appreciate just how good Intel
motherboards are. He posted a review
of the new Intel SR440BX "Sun River" motherboard which rates it
highly. He does ding it for the absence of an AGP slot, and points out
that the embedded TNT video can be upgraded subsequently only by adding a
PCI video card, but that really misses the point. The Sun River is not an
overclocker's or hobbyist's board. It is intended to provide the
foundation for a decent mainstream PC with good sound and video on-board.
For its intended purpose, the SR440BX is a superb motherboard.
* * * * *
In reading about the execution-style murder of popular British
television personality Jill Dando, I was struck by one statement made by
the New Scotland Yard spokesman. He said, "We are appealing to any
one else who may have seen a white male, late thirties to forties, quite
tall, maybe up to 5ft 11ins ..." The implication that a man of
"up to 5ft '11ins" (180 cm) is considered "quite tall"
in Britain surprised me.
A caucasian man of that age in this country would be considered average
at 5'11" tall. I say "of that age" because age does have a
lot to do with it. In 1860, President Abraham Lincoln was considered a
giant at 6'4" (193 cm) tall. I don't have the figures immediately at
hand, but I seem to recall that the average US caucasian male in 1860 was
about 5'5" or 5'6" tall. Improvements in health care in general
and nutrition in particular have caused that average to increase over the
years. My father, born in 1923, was considered tall at 6'1" (185 cm).
I was born in 1953. At about 6'4", I am considered tall, but by no
means gigantic. In fact, when I was a teenager I played pickup basketball
as a guard because I wasn't tall enough to play forward.
Although I don't know for certain, I would guess that children born
during the depression years and later during the war years probably grew
up noticeably shorter on average than those born when high quality food
was available in adequate quantity. I do recall reading when I was very
young that the average caucasian adult male in the US was 5'9" tall.
That would probably have been in the very early 1960's. Later, in the late
1970's I recall reading that the height of the average caucasian adult
male was by then 5'10 1/2" tall. Presumably, those differences in
average height reflect the growth to adult height of children born during
the immediate post-war period and the aging out of the older, shorter part
of the sample during the twenty years or so that intervened.
Although I am recalling these figures purely from memory and may be off
somewhat, the point is that I found it surprising that British men
apparently are noticeably shorter than American men.
* * * * *
This from Blair McKay [email@example.com]:
Please forgive an ignorant question; I've
had very little experience with firearms.
On your web page, you state that there is no
reason for a safety on a revolver. Why is that? Is it because a
revolver's trigger is harder to squeeze, or is there some extra
"step" that has to occur before the gun can be fired?
The purpose of a safety is to prevent the unintentional or
accidental discharge of a firearm. Broadly speaking there are two types of
revolver, called single-action and double-action. Actually, there have
been a number of self-cocking revolvers made, but they are oddities. One
could attend gun shows every week for years and never see one.
At any rate, the original type of revolver, called
single-action, requires the shooter to cock the hammer manually before
each shot. One does not cock the hammer until immediately before firing.
Once the hammer is cocked, a relatively small pressure (typically 2 or 3
pounds, 1 to 1.5 kg) on the trigger discharges the weapon. A safety is
useless on a single-action revolver, because the weapon is inherently safe
when it is not cocked, and it is not designed to be kept in the cocked
position for any length of time. It would make as much sense to design a
safety for a hunting bow when in the drawn position.
Single-action revolvers are functionally obsolete with a
few exceptions, although some are still being made. They belong to the
Wild West era, and have been largely superceded by more modern designs.
They are still made for two reasons. First, the design of a single-action
revolver allows it to be made very strong, appropriate for extremely
powerful loads like the .44 Magnum and up. Second, they remain popular
among people whose hobby is recreating the Wild West.
Original single-action designs did have one serious defect.
When uncocked, the hammer rested on the rear of the firing pin, and the
front of the firing pin rested on or near the primer of the round in
firing position. That meant that dropping the weapon or even banging it
sharply could cause it to discharge unexpectedly. Wise shooters always
carried such revolvers with the chamber under the firing pin empty,
thereby converting their six-shooters into five-shooters. Many years ago,
firearm manufacturers repaired this design flaw by modifying the hammer so
that it rested against the frame rather than the firing pin and adding a
transfer bar that was only raised into position when the trigger was
pulled. If the transfer bar was not in position, no amount of pressure on
the hammer could allow it to contact the firing pin.
For most practical applications, the second type of
revolver, called double-action, prevails. It is so-called because it can
work in either of two modes:
First, one can cock the hammer manually just as with a
single-action revolver. That method is most suited to hunting, target
shooting, and other applications where accuracy is paramount. When used in
this mode, a double-action revolver is exactly analogous to a
single-action revolver. Once cocked, discharging the weapon requires
moderate pressure on the trigger, typically 2 or 3 pounds, and very short
trigger travel. A safety is superfluous in this mode for the same reason
as on a single-action revolver.
Second, one can fire a double-action revolver from an
uncocked state simply by pulling the trigger, but doing this requires much
longer trigger travel and much more pressure, often 12 or 15 pounds (5 to
7 kg). It is impossible to exert this much trigger travel and this much
force accidentally. One must consciously pull the trigger to cause the
weapon to discharge. Once again, the purpose of a safety is to prevent
unintentional or accidental discharge, which is clearly impossible in this
mode, making a safety superfluous. This mode is intended for when you have
to shoot quickly and speed is more important than accuracy, i.e. for
self-defense. When you need to defend yourself, the last thing you need is
a safety getting in the way. Without extensive training few people can hit
even a man-size target at across the room distances when firing in this
mode, which is why a revolver is not the best choice of weapon for
April 29, 1999
The FDIC is at it again with the "Know Your Customer" rules
for banks. If you live in the US and are at all concerned about your
privacy, please visit the Defend
Your Privacy web site and add your name to the petition. I did. The
petition asks for your name, email address, and postal address, which may
concern some. It did me, the first time I visited the site early this
year. But that was before I realized that this web site is run by the
Libertarian Party. You may or may not agree with their politics, but they
are certainly unlikely to sell your name to anyone.
* * * * *
In the good news department, I found the following while catching up on
Cooper's Commentaries, Volume 7, Number 2:
A Middle Eastern terrorist, Khay Rahnajet, did not pay enough
postage on a letter bomb. It came back with "Return to Sender"
stamped on it. Being of the usual intellectual development of a
terrorist, he proceeded to open the letter. Maybe he learned from that
experience, but considering what he started out with, I doubt if he
(The foregoing information appeared in "Firearm News"
from Stellenbosch, South Africa.)
* * * * *
And, speaking of Libertarian web sites, this from Dave Farquhar [firstname.lastname@example.org]:
I got a piece of mail from a colleague today
that at first surprised me. Seems the Libertarian party is running a web
site called www.stopthewarnow.com.
I don't feel so bad about having turned into a hippie now.
The more I thought about the libertarian
ideals, the more sense the connection made. This war is
unconstitutional, a waste of American lives, and a waste of tax dollars.
None of that's incompatible with libertarian philosophy.
I thought you and the rest of your
readership (at least those in the United States) might be interested.
This thing sounds way too much like the
standard political endorsement/solicitation letter. I think I missed my
I hadn't heard about that web site, but it doesn't surprise
me. The Libertarian Party has used the web extensively and effectively
since the web began. Not surprising, really, when you consider that the LP
appeals first and foremost to rational people and that a good many of us
techie-types fall into that category. Thanks for telling me about the
site. I've already submitted my petition.
* * * * *
This from Chuck Waggoner [email@example.com]:
Is anyone in the US who is advocating
tougher gun laws in the wake of the Denver massacre paying any attention
to news from Great Britain?
In that country, which--for a long time--has
had some of the toughest gun laws of any western democracy: popular BBC
TV host Jill Dando was killed point blank by a hand gun; in Manchester
two men with multiple firearms, including an AK47 shot passers-by,
wounding five, during a high speed chase with police; another man in
Manchester walked into a pub, shot three men, one of them five times,
then the shooter escaped and is still at large; and a man who left a gas
station in Hounslow (near Heathrow airport) without paying, ended up
firing at pursuing police (and nearby civilians) with both a handgun and
an assault rifle, later taking a hostage (fortunately no one was
killed)--all of this in the space of one week!
What's more, in spite of their rigid gun
controls, British police authorities say the gun used to kill Dando
"was common and easy for criminals to obtain."
If you believe the anti-gun lobby, none of
this should have happened in a country where guns are banned.
Yes, we've already had calls for tighter gun control laws,
including one from that moron sitting in the Whitehouse. Although you
didn't mention it, I saw in the morning paper that there has been another
high-school shooting, this time in Alberta, Canada. Two shot, one of them
dead, and again by a kid wearing a trenchcoat. This in a town of about
8,000 population. This news item only made the News Briefs section on page
3 of our paper. Apparently, such incidents are no longer worthy of page
one treatment, or perhaps the body count was not high enough to rate page
one in our paper. Canada, of course, already has ridiculously tight gun
control laws, but they didn't do any good here.
April 30, 1999
I got two chapters back from Pournelle, cleaned up the formatting a
bit, and got them off to O'Reilly yesterday. The official first two
chapters of the book have now been submitted in first-draft form. Things
are starting to move along, although I must confess I'd hoped to be
further along by the end of April.
* * * * *
The Pentium III serial number thing is back in the news. A Canadian
company, ZeroKnowledge Systems has posted a web page that illustrates how
someone with malicious intent can turn on and read your Pentium III serial
number. If you have a Pentium III system and want to see how this works,
turn off the serial number and then hit the ZeroKnowledge
web page. This link takes you to the introductory page. When you go to
the next page, you're given the opportunity to run the demonstration. Your
computer will lock up and require rebooting. When you restart it, it will
display your Pentium III serial number, which has been stored in a cookie.
Bizarrely, Symantec has already included this demonstration in their
anti-virus signature files.
* * * * *
This from Dennis Loretz [firstname.lastname@example.org]:
I am looking to get into the NT arena. First
thing I plan on doing is obtaining some background (technical)
information on NT Workstation before making the leap. Any
recommendations for a general book for installation and general
management for home use? I have fiddled with an NT workstation at work
before, but not enough to feel comfortable with it as I do Win95.
Appreciate the help . . .
Dennis J. Loretz
Good question. I'm not really familiar with any Windows NT
Workstation books, although there are a lot of them. If O'Reilly published
a Windows NT Workstation book, I'd say it'd be the best bet, but they
don't. Windows NT Workstation is really just Windows NT Server with some
pieces missing. I got started with Windows NT Server, so I never had any
problem using Windows NT Workstation, and never felt the need to read any
books about it. I think you're unlikely to find an NTW book oriented to
home users, simply because NTW is still perceived as a largely corporate
OS. Many of the readers of my web site run Windows NT Workstation. Perhaps
some of them have some good titles they can recommend.
May 1, 1999
Today is an administrative day. I have a bunch of stuff to do, none of
it interesting, but all things that need done. At least that beats
tomorrow, when I have to climb up on the roof and blow out the gutters.
The combination of monsoon rains (4" in one day) and all our trees
deciding to dump their seed pods at the same time made a real mess. I'd
better get to work.
* * * * *
This from Paul Robichaux email@example.com:
Bizarrely, Symantec has already included this demonstration in
their anti-virus signature files
No bizarrity involved-- Intel called them and asked them to do so. I
saw the story somewhere yesterday (maybe on news.com, but I can't find
the link in my cache right now).
I think you're unlikely to find an NTW book oriented to home
users, simply because NTW is still perceived as a largely corporate OS.
Microsoft's been running print ads (the ones I saw were all in _US
News & World Report_) positioning NTW as the better desktop
alternative for small businesses-- the one I've seen features some
veteranian [sic] who needs more power and stability than Win98 offers.
Pretty interesting. Here we are 5 months from the alleged release date
of W2K, and Microsoft's launching an ad campaign targeting W98 and
trumpeting NT 4.0! I wonder if the objective is to get people off Win98
and onto NTW, or to keep people away from Linux and on NTW.
Paul Robichaux | firstname.lastname@example.org | http://www.robichaux.net
Robichaux & Associates: programming, writing, teaching, consulting
I didn't consider it bizarre that Intel requested it. Just
that Symantec agreed to it. The chances that Microsoft will actually ship
NT5 in October are slim to none. They may ship something they call NT5,
but it won't be what they've announced NT5 will be. And why would they
ship their flagship operating system this fall when (a) everyone will be
too preoccupied with Y2K to think about it, and (b) they absolutely,
positively have to ship a product that's feature complete and stable. I'm
still guessing we'll see the real NT5 no earlier than Q1/00, and my guess
is it will be more like mid-2000. They may ship a preview edition early,
but I can't see the wisdom in that.
* * * * *
This from Jerry Mah, who asks that his email address not be published:
I usually don't participate in these
non-computer conversations, however a particular comment hit close to
home. Alberta is a province, akin to a state. Taber is the city where
the shooting occurred. I live near Taber, AB. "Ironically,"
Alanis Morisette was reported to have hung out in Taber this past
Taber is a little town in southern Alberta,
known for their corn. Taber's website has their population pegged at
7214. I doubt that they've experienced much in a population explosion.
Their town is very low key on this entire subject, and perhaps have
shown Americans a side of Canada that you are unfamiliar with. Canadians
are not the sensationalists that our southern neighbors are. We don't
make a lot of noise, when our government introduces legislation, we tend
to grumble and then accept it.
Not that I'm 100% familiar with Canada's gun
control laws, however the statement that we have one of the
"...ridiculously tight gun control laws..." I would say is a
pretty extreme statement. I still don't know what stops any law abiding
citizen to own a weapon. In fact I could easily go out, obtain a
license, reg. and weapon. One of the primary reasons that
"Canadian" owners complained so vehemently is that they were
forced to "register" their weapons. There were also some
weapons that were banned as well, as far as I know they were fully
automatics, or weapons that were easily convertable to fully automatics.
However, I know several people that still purchase, and still own their
weapons. In fact, since we're basically in farming country here, it's
mostly people who live in the cities who don't own weapons. Now, I
suppose my argument could be that if you don't want to register your
weapon, you've got something to hide. However, I'm not here to defend my
government's laws. I do make the point that I fail to see how they are
Increasily I think that we should be looking
at these individuals who have caused these atrocities. To say that it is
gun control, or the lack of gun control that has caused this is not the
answer. Where there is a will, there is a way.
I would rather my e-mail address not be
posted, so that every gun activitist in the world mail bombs me for my
My opinions are my own, and not of my
If you're referring to my comment that the shooting
occurred in "Alberta, Canada", I am fully aware that Alberta is
a province. I didn't mention Taber because I'd forgotten the name of the
town and the newspaper was gone by the time I wrote those remarks. The
newspaper reported the size of the town as 8,000, which I didn't verify.
I'm sorry to hear that you live so close to the scene. That must be
I am not personally familiar with Canadian gun control
laws, and was commenting simply on the basis of what others have told me.
I consider any law "ridiculously tight" that prohibits average
people from owning a useful class of weapon. If you can walk into your
local gun store and buy a Colt 1911 .45 automatic or a similar defensive
handgun and carry that weapon for self defense, I'll withdraw my
characterization of Canadian gun control laws.
I never said that gun control laws or the lack thereof
caused these tragedies. I simply stated that disarming people leaves them
defenseless and that the presence of even one person who was armed and
able to defend himself might have done much to minimize the body count at
I doubt you would have received much mail, if any, from
pro-gun people. It's the hoplophobes who are vociferous when someone
comments favorably about guns. It's kind of like the PC/Mac issue. I could
post an article saying nice things about Macs and bad things about PCs and
I'd likely receive few or no nastygrams from PC advocates. If I did the
opposite, I'd be covered up with mail from Mac bigots.
* * * * *
This from someone who asks to remain anonymous:
I found your webpage on searching tape
backups. I was wondering which model of HP uses the TR-4. The Colorado
states that it uses TR-3.
My employer's office needs a backup system
desparately. A local tech has suggested an HP 1559A DAT drive. This runs
in the neighborhood of $800 for the hardware alone. For a 2 PC peer to
peer with a 2.0 and 1.0GB harddrive this seems excessive. I am exploring
the options. Either the above DAT, a Zip or Jazz, or Travan type tape
drive.... I am trying to make the point to her that the DAT is overkill
considering the fact that there is plenty of downtime when we don't need
to access the system. 40mins to an hour is fully available to us. We
don't need killer speed or bus mastering. It would be nice however to
backup to one tape and not have to sit and guide the process, if you
know what I mean. So on that count the Zip is probably out. The Jazz
also moves into the neighborhood of $550 with a 2GB disk, I think. Of
course, as you pointed out the tapes for Travan are $30 or so dollars.
For fault tolerance, wouldn't you want at least 2 of these. I know that
I can get a TR-3 drive for about $200.. So there you would be in about
$260. My only worry is the tapes getting degraded. What are the optimal
storage conditions? Then there is cleaning the drive. I know too well
about that ... Our PC at home has a Conner backup drive that failed and
some of the tapes were ruined by heat or whatever? Not sure.
Sorry for rambling.. Thanks in advance for
any information you might give me.
You definitely shouldn't buy a TR3 or earlier drive. These
are functionally obsolete. Neither should you depend upon ZIP, Jazz, or
similar removable media. Tape is still king for backup, and for good
reason. Unless there's something significant you haven't told me, I can't
think why your tech would have recommended a DDS (DAT) tape drive. That
sounds clearly inappropriate to me.
What you probably should buy is a Travan TR4 drive,
assuming that 6 GB or so per tape is adequate to cover expected growth.
Travan TR4 drives with IDE interfaces are available for less than $200 if
you shop carefully. They store 4 GB natively, but are advertised as
"8 GB" drives, on the assumption that your data will compress
2:1. I get more like 1.5:1, so that means about 6 GB will fit on a TR4
tape. TR4 drives advertised 30 MB/min throughput native and 60 MB/min
compressed. My experience has been that they run at about 35 to 38 MB/min
when backing up local data using compression on a reasonably fast machine,
and do about 22 MB/min across a 10BaseT Ethernet network.
If you are running Windows 95, you may find that the
bundled backup applet is insufficient to meet your needs. It does not
include support for scheduling (although you can kind of get around that),
for saving sets (you have to make your backup selections from scratch each
time), or data compression. The backup applet that comes with Windows 98
is much better, and will probably suffice. In any event, make sure that
the drive you choose is supported natively by the operating system you're
If you think you may be adding a machine or two to your
network in the forseeable future, or if you may be replacing your disk
drives with larger ones, you may outgrow the capacity of TR4 quickly. If
that's the case, take a look at the OnStream DI30 drive. It costs about
$250 on the street, uses $35 tapes that store 15 GB natively, and has
about twice the throughput of the TR4 drives. However, it uses only its
own backup software, called Echo, which may or may not be a problem for
you. The OnStream drives are still very new, and the current version of
Echo has some problems, particularly under Windows NT, but OnStream plans
to release an updated version of Echo soon which should solve most or all
of the problems I've had with this "dot-oh" release. I'm backing
up my network to an OnStream DI30 as I write this.
Whichever drive you buy, plan to buy more than one or two
tapes. In isolation, $30 or $35 per tape sounds expensive, but it's cheap
insurance to protect your business. There are numerous tape rotation
strategies, but all of the decent ones require at least six to ten tapes.
I don't have room here to detail the issues, but any decent book that
covers backup should at least provide the essentials. I think I did a
rather decent chapter on backup in my book Windows
NT Server 4.0 for NetWare Administrators. It may not be worth buying
the book for that chapter, but you might want to see if your library has a
Regarding cleaning, you are correct that it is critically
important. My TR4 drive recommends cleaning after every ten hours of use
using either a cleaning cartridge or a cotton swab with rubbing alcohol. I
prefer the latter. When I first got the drive, I neglected to clean it as
often as I should have, and I started getting errors on backups. Since I
started cleaning it periodically, I've yet to get an error.
* * * * *
And this followup, which I've edited to remove quoted material from my
Why so? Just curious. What makes his
recommendation inappropriate? To me it seems far too expensive and
performance oriented for the situation. We don't need to have bus
mastering or high speed. But what of the tape for DATs? Are they
reliable? How do they compare with TR4? I know that they are digital, of
course, but also that they store data helixically (sp) for higher
capacity on a smaller tape. I personally don't care how big the tape is.
Is it more reliable, though?
What of Jazz drives? Are they reliable? They
to be fairly compatible and dependable. Correct me if I am wrong,
please. I don't know about Zip because that would necessitate a backup
set rather than one clean store to disk. That seems a bit tedious to me,
but then, no more tedious than backup to a floppy. A tedious and
uncertain prospect at that. One that has gone on far too long.
The original drive you mentioned, at $800, is an
inexpensive DDS drive. It is likely a DDS2 (4/8GB) drive, which will offer
about the same amount of storage and the same performance as a TR4 drive.
It will require installing SCSI, which is not inexpensive or simple. The
only advantages of DDS2 is that the tapes are somewhat cheaper than TR4
tapes, that it may provide read-after-write (which allows you to do backup
and verify in one pass), and that it may support hardware compression. But
it's simply too expensive a technology to be reasonable for what you want
to do, and the lower cost per tape is subsumed by the cost of the drive
for your application.
Jazz drives are unworkable simply on media cost. They have
a very high cost per megabyte relative to tape, and you'd need more than
one Jazz disk to do a single backup. To support a rotation, you'd need
Hmm I would say given the system she has it
would take well over an hour to backup the 2GB harddrive. I am assigning
your network transfer as her system is not very fast.
Why worry about how long the backup takes? Start the backup
when you finish work and allow it to run overnight. When you come in in
the morning, stick last night's tape in your purse and insert the next
tape in the drive. If that's a problem because you currently turn your
computers off at night, get in the habit of leaving them on. The computers
will last longer, and the amount of electricity they consume is trivial,
especially if you have the monitors blanked.
I think I could get around the scheduling
part. Won't need compression or sets. But then there is other backup
software that will allow the functions of scheduling, saving sets and
compression, right? We run Windows 95 OSR2 BTW.
Yes, there are any number of other backup apps you could
run. In fact, your tape drive may come with one. Just make sure that it
allows you to back up network volumes that are mapped as drives on the
local machine where the tape drive is installed. Most do allow this, but
some "personal" backup applications will backup only local
I saw those OnStream units at CompUSA. Are
they reliable? Sounds like given the relatively small harddrives needing
backup that this might not be worth the possible headaches with such a
Well, who knows if they're reliable? They've only been on
the market for a couple of months now. The drives and tapes appear to be
well constructed, and my guess is that they'll be very reliable. I've been
beating up an OnStream DI30 internal IDE drive for a month or two now, and
it seems to be a good technology. I have some qualms about the bundled
Echo backup software, particularly under Windows NT, but those should be
addressed by the new release, which OnStream tells me will happen soon.
And I think it's a mistake to buy a backup solution based on your current
hard disk sizes. What happens when you add one more machine, or when you
want to install a new application or version upgrade and find that you
need to install larger hard disks? Plan for where you're likely to be in a
year or two, not where you are now.
Yeah, I know. A rotation is necessary. But
how about a 3 tape rotation? Is that acceptable. Not that much changes
on the system each day. I was thinking backup twice a week with rotation
No, a three tape rotation is completely inadequate, unless
all you want to guard against is catastrophic disk failure. Any decent
backup rotation has as one goal allowing you to recover older versions of
files. What happens if an important file is accidentally deleted or
becomes corrupted and you don't notice immediately? You want to be able to
go back a week or a month and retrieve an older stored version of the
Could you offer a recommendation for a TR4
drive? Seagate? Connor? HP? Colorado doesn't show itself to be a TR4.
Also, what do you think of Sparq drives (sp)? My bosses husband has this
for backup and he likes it. He also is very chauvanistic and will
probably dissuade her from following any advice I give.
Connor is now owned by Seagate, and Colorado is a division
of HP. I have a Seagate/Conner TapeStor TR4 drive, and I've been pleased
with it. Other than that, I can't recommend specific brands because I
haven't used them. Your boss's husband may be less pleased with his SparQ
drive when he finds that SyQuest has gone out of business.
In any event, I am trying to learn about
backups in the process. I need to present my employer with a solid
recommendation for backup. In my gut, I don't think the tech's
recommendation is right. Also, my boss is pretty tight-fisted. I think
if I could present a cheaper, reliable option she would be happy to save
the money. She bought the cheapest PC she could get.
She is a afterall a financial planner :).
Thanks in advance.
It sounds as though your boss tends to be penny-wise and
pound-foolish. Many small businesses that fail do so because they've lost
their data because they failed to keep a good set of backups. Ask you boss
where she'd be if she came in one morning and found her PCs had been
stolen, or that they'd been destroyed by fire, flood, or other
catastrophe, or simply that the hard drive had failed. Does she have
important data stored on them, such as customer files, billing data, etc.?
Could she reconstruct it in a timely manner? Could she reconstruct it at
all? A small business that does not establish a good backup plan and
follow it is an accident waiting to happen.
* * * * *
This from Peter Thomas [email@example.com]:
I know at one point recently, you mentioned
having heard of a 35mm "digital film" that would convert any
existing SLR camera to digital.
Take a look at http://www.imagek.com
Thanks. Actually, I think it was Bo Leuf who made that
reference. I'm the one who thinks such hybrids are a very bad idea.
I went over and checked out this page. I see that they're
not actually shipping product yet, but plan to do so sometime this summer.
It's an interesting idea, but for $800 I don't think it will fly. It's a
question of too little functionality for too much money. The resolution is
only 1280X1024, which is now mid-range. I didn't search the site
exhaustively, but I saw no mention of CCD size. If they are in fact
providing a full 24X36mm frame, I'd think the resolution would be much
higher. My guess is that they may be using something less than full frame,
which would turn a normal lens into a telephoto, and a telephoto into a
But the real problems are caused by the fact that this
device is a drop-in replacement for a 35 mm film cassette. The device has
no on-board data compression, and stores only 24 images. When you reach
that number, you must remove the device and transfer your images to a
computer before you can take more pictures. It's not clear to me how long
that will take, but if they're using serial transfer, it might take hours
to download 24 uncompressed 1280X1024 images.
There's obviously no way to view images, or to delete ones
you don't want to keep. Because the device is completely internal, even
providing indications to the photographer is a problem. They mention audio
prompts, and they also mention an indicator light, although that will not
be visible with most 35mm bodies.
My guess is this device will fail miserably in the market.
At $800, it's too expensive for casual users. Most of those who are
willing to spend $800 on digital photography will buy a digital camera for
its many advantages over this device--swappable memory sticks, a
viewfinder that allows you to view and delete images, etc. Those who want
to use their existing 35mm lenses are likely to find this device too
constraining. I think it's doomed.
What I really want is a $500 to $1,000 digital camera body
designed from the ground up to use 35mm lenses and accessories. If Nikon,
Olympus, Pentax, Canon, and the other manufacturers of traditional 35mm
equipment introduced a digital body as a part of their standard line,
they'd sell a ton of them. But I don't think the technology is quite here
yet. At a minimum, they'd need a full 24X36mm CCD with something like
2048X3072 resolution or better. They'd also need, at a minimum, image
transfer via USB, if not IEEE-1394. Moore's Law makes me suspect that day
is not all that far away.
* * * * *
I got most of my administrative stuff done, and now I'm juggling
installations on a couple of test-bed machines. I think I'm going to do
something I've never tried before: build a system without a case. I'm
going to place the motherboard flat on my credenza and wire it up to a
stand-alone power supply, floppy, CD, and hard disk. We'll see what
happens. If FCC rules have any basis, it should create quite a bit of
interference with other electronic devices nearby. I'm beginning to feel
like Dr. Frankenstein. Now I need an Igor.
* * * * *
This from Bo Leuf:
Trust a reader to find the link for us.
However, you commented:
"The device has no on-board data compression, and stores
only 24 images. When you reach that number, you must remove the device
and transfer your images to a computer before you can take more
pictures. It's not clear to me how long that will take, but if they're
using serial transfer, it might take hours to download 24 uncompressed
This is incorrect as far as their FAQ goes.
1. The device uses onboard lossless compression. 2. Transfer of the 24
images from device to pc is said to take *less than a minute*.
I'll be keeping an eye on this product. And
"Bo Leuf" firstname.lastname@example.org
Leuf fc3 Consultancy
I'm sure you're right. As I said, I didn't spend a lot of
time on the site. I still think these guys are going to get their butts
kicked by the Canons and Nikons of the world. But to each his own.
May 2, 1999
I got the case-less testbed system built. It almost worked. It's a bit
strange to start the computer by using a screwdriver to short out the two
pins intended to connect to the power switch, but other than that
everything worked fine. Or would have, except for the locked CPU
multiplier. The SR440BX "Sun River" motherboard came jumpered
for normal operation. When I fired it up, the boot screen told me that I
had a 350 MHz Pentium III processor installed and then locked up. I shut
it down and changed the jumper to the "configure" position.
When I restarted the system, the boot screen told me that I had a 200
MHz Pentium III processor installed. After a pause of several seconds, the
system entered BIOS Setup mode. I attempted to set the correct CPU speed,
but found that the highest available setting was only 450 MHz. I can't
believe I just wrote "only 450 Mhz." How quickly we become
jaded. At any rate, I set the CPU speed to 450 MHz, because I do have 450
MHz versions of the Pentium II and Pentium III CPUs around here somewhere.
People seldom think of it that way, but the CPU multiplier is as
effective a bar to underclocking as it is to overclocking, so I wasn't
able to run the CPU I'd intended to use. I checked the Intel web site and
found that there is an updated BIOS available, although I was out of time
* * * * *
At the same time I was doing all this, I was also working on rebuilding
Testbed1. I used to give my testbed systems real names, but I
tend to get too attached to systems that have proper names. The old joke
says that lab technicians prefer to use lawyers instead of white rats
because they get too attached to the rats, so perhaps I should name my
testbed systems for famous lawyers.
At any rate, testbed1 is a Celeron/333 system built around an
EPoX EP-BXT motherboard. It originally ran Windows NT4/SP4. I installed
the OnStream DI30 tape drive in that system, intending to run it under
Windows NT. What I found was that the dot-oh release of the OnStream Echo
backup software didn't get along very well with Windows NT. That'll be
fixed soon, when OnStream ships an updated Echo, but meanwhile I needed to
test the drive. So I installed Windows 98 on that system. [As it turns
out, OnStream Echo works fine under Win98].
I'd originally installed Windows NT in a 1 GB partition, but there was
more than 3 GB of unpartitioned space on that drive. WinNT and Win9X are
easy to set up as dual-boot if you install Win9X first. You simply create
a primary partition for Win9X and devote the rest of the disk space to an
extended partition. WinNT is perfectly happy to reside on a logical volume
in the extended parition, although it installs its startup files in the
Win9X primary partition.
But WinNT was already living in the first primary partition, so the
easy answer was to create a second primary partition, mark it active, and
install Win98 there. That meant that I had to switch between booting WinNT
and Win98 by using fdisk to reset the active partition, but I could live
with that for a while. It was, at least, a quick way to get Win98 running
on that box so that I could test the OnStream tape drive. That was a
temporary solution at best.
Rebuilding testbed1 properly meant I needed to have Win98 in
the primary partition and WinNT installed on a logical volume. The easy
way to do that was simply to blow away everything on the disk drive, use
fdisk to take it down to bare metal, and reinstall everything. I got as
far as getting Win98 installed yesterday, and should get WinNT installed
and configured today.
Barbara is out working in the yard as I write this, and won't have time
to clean house today. So I'd better get to work cleaning house and doing
laundry. It's cool today, with winds gusting to 20 MPH (32 KPH) and a wind
chill near freezing, so I don't think I'll climb up on the roof to blow
out the gutters.
* * * * *
This from joshua [email@example.com]:
I don't consider it that bizarre for
Symantec to consider the ZeroKnowledge program a virus. Intel is a big
company, and they leaned on Symantec to do so.
What is bizarre is that Intel thinks that
this is the proper way to deal with security holes in their chip. What
if I use linux instead of MS (at the moment, although this is only
temporary, the only computer of mine with Windows on it is a broken 486
notebook)? Now I'm exposed again to their flaws. Heck, it probably
wouldn't even be that hard to modify the ZeroKnowledge hack to bypass
Symantec. What will Intel do then? They can't block everything.
I'm not particularly concerned about the CPU serial number
as a security issue. What worries me more about it is that software
vendors will use it to "marry" operating systems and
applications to a particular processor. I think we'll see this start to
happen with vertical-market applications real soon now, if it hasn't
happened already. The bad old days of copy protection may soon return.
Although no one has made much noise about it, I understand that the CPU
serial number is not unique to the Pentium III, but is also included in
Deschutes-based Pentium II CPUs and Mendocino-based Celerons.