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Daynotes Journal

Week of 5/3/99

Friday, July 05, 2002 08:19

A (mostly) daily journal of the trials, tribulations, and random observations of Robert Bruce Thompson, a writer of computer books.


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Monday, May 3, 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, including the begining of my adventures building PCs without cases.

I spent some time yesterday changing the colors on this site, of all things. It all started when I read on Bo Leuf's web site about Jacob Neilson's Useit site, which listed the Top Ten mistakes made by webmasters in creating their pages. Bo knows a lot more about the technical aspects of web pages than I do, so I emailed him and asked how my site stacked up against that list. He said I was doing pretty well, but he did mention that I was using "bad" colors.

I was vaguely aware that web page designers should limit themselves to the 216 "safe" colors, but I had no idea what those colors were. I suppose I figured FrontPage, being designed for novices, would present only safe color choices. That turns out not to be the case. Bo specifically mentioned the brownish color I use for page headlines and date headers. In hexadecimal, the color I was using was represented 804040. That is, "80" red, and "40" each green and blue. The "safe" colors use only the hex values 00, 33, 66, 99, CC, and FF (decimal 0, 51, 102, 153, 204, and 255). Six numbers used by threes gives the 216 safe combinations.

My first cut was to change 804040 to 663333, which seemed the closest "safe" color, at least numerically. That looked fine within FrontPage, but when I displayed it in a browser it looked closer to black than brown. So I went to the web color chart referenced on Bo's page and found something that looked about right. That turned out to be 993300, so that's what I changed all my 804040 colors to. I can't tell much difference, and I hope you can't either.

The other "bad" color I was using was C0C0C0, which is what I used for grayed out text (like Monday in the left column). I changed those to CCCCCC. Quite honestly, I'm not sure what difference these changes will make, but Bo assures me they're worth doing, so I did them. Commenting on the change to safe colors, Bo said:

It will always mean that some poor visitor is going to get a *good* impression from your page, where on a majority of other sites he or she must strain to make out some of the smaller texts. We almost never hear any response from such people, because they suffer in silence, never really knowing why the pages are "so hard to read".

Color is like background theme music -- when it works as intended, the listener/viewser never even notices; when it doesn't, it's intrusive and a pain (like animations).

Now I'm beginning to wonder if I should scrap this parchment background and simply use a light tan background color, assuming I can find one such in the safe palette. You can read more about all this on Bo's page.

* * * * *

This from Jerry Mah:

I didn't mean to put you on the defensive. I personally do not have an opinion on gun control. I just thought that there are distinctions between Taber and Littleton, however parallels between the shooters. One thing that I do know was that the house that the Taber shooter stayed in contained several legally obtained, and registered firearms. Ultimately, I think the responsibility lies behind the individual pulling the trigger. However, I think that us as a society can do something about it.

I didn't think I was on the defensive. I'm sure you're right that there are distinctions between Littleton and Taber, but surely you'll admit that the similarities are striking. The point is that no gun control law, no matter how draconian, addresses the real problem in either of these cases. The politicians, as usual, are looking for palatable easy answers. There aren't any.

* * * * *

This from joshua [catpro@catpro.dragonfire.net]:

You can bet that the CPU IDs will return like you fear. I expect that they will first appear in Highend software, like database packages and graphics packages, and then work their way over onto shareware, and down to normal software.

I finally have a story of copy protection horrors of my own to share, rather than repeating other peoples. Two years ago, my church was sending a missions team from the youth group to Mexico. They thought that it would be a good idea to make every one learn spanish. Well, at my suggestion, and after evaluating a beta copy, they decided on a spanish learning system from Dean Vaughn Learning Systems. It really was a good system. Anyway, they like the beta, so they went ahead and ordered 15 copies at $200 apiece. When the copies arived, they found out the between the beta and the shipping version a copy protection system was added. During the install process it is nescesary to call the company and get a key that is unique every time the program is installed.

This worked out OK, although it was a big pain in the but. But then, two years later, my sister is taking spanish, and since she is homeschooled, my mother thought she should use this expensive CD. Well, in the time in between the original purchase and the beginning of the year, my mother upgraded from her old 486 to a p90. When she went to install the CD on her p90, she found out that apparently the company has gone out of business. Now, my church is about to sent another missions team to mexico, and again they want the team to learn spanish. And they thought they could reuse their old system, and then they found that their $3000 of software would not work anymore.

I just thought that you might be interested in another story of copy protection bitting innocent consumers.

Personally, I don't fear the CPU-ID being used to copy protection. I know that I am in a fairly unique position here, but I find that I seldom need pay wear. For my music hobby, the pay ware that I wanted cost $1k and up. So instead I wrote my own, which has features added as I need them. For word processing, I have a CSS sheet that takes care of most of my most commonly needed formating features, and I'm trying to write an hybrid XML/HTML to ps program that will take care of the rest of the needed style elements that I haven't been able to do with CSS. For a spread sheet I use a free program, for database work I use PostGresSQL or perl db. The weakest area to my plan is graphics software.

The main packages that I'm waiting for and good open 3D graphics program, vector illustration, and natural media paint. Work is being done in all these areas, but none of it is quite good enough for my wants.

The only time that I really need to use pay ware is for paid work (and sometimes to use fractal design painter). I don't do this just to rebel, or be radical, but rather because it just works better. I do a lot of my word processing from emacs on really old notebooks that can't run word, or from macs configured to act as dumb terminals, or from suns. Printing is then done from either Sun's or Windows 95 machines in the labs. HTML is the only file format that is cross platform enough to let me just work instead of waiting in line to use the PCs at college (I don't own a printer and I'm a commuter student who usually is on campus almost all day every day, so waiting to do my work on my home computer enviroment isn't an option).

Despite my best efforts, I can't seem to find work that doesn't require working on MS platforms. I look forward to the day when I can break completely. Oh well, until then, at least I can be happy at home.

--

Joshua Boyd
http://catpro.dragonfire.net/joshua

Yes, software like that is an outrage. But it could have been worse. At least the software kept working on the machine it was originally installed on. Back in the early 1980's, I worked for a software company named Kubernan, which sold billing and accounting software to law firms. The software ran on DEC minicomputers, and cost thousands of dollars.

The software itself was licensed in perpetuity rather than being rented for a specific term. Kubernan also charged by the hour for technical support. To make sure they could collect those bills, they coded a "time bomb" into the software itself. It was designed to simply stop working after a certain time. That way, if a customer didn't pay their bill for technical support, Kubernan had a very strong club to use to collect. All that law firm's billing and accounting data would be inaccessible until they paid their bill.

I always had a problem with that, and argued on many occasions that it was dishonest to conceal such a time-bomb in the software. As far as I know, no customer ever became aware of the existence of that time bomb, at least not explicitly. They sure saw the results, though.. The bombs went off routinely even in firms that were current on payments. When that happened, Kubernan tech support staff re-enabled the software without ever telling the customer that the problem they'd had was due to the time bomb rather than a simple bug or a mistake on the part of the law firm's operators.

I left the company in 1985, and they filed for bankruptcy a year or two later as I recall. I've always wondered how many law firms found themselves unable to access their data when the time bomb went off. Perhaps Kubernan recognized the problem and distributed a clean version of the software before they disappeared. But I'd guess not. That just wasn't the way they did business.

You're fortunate in that you have the skills to write software of your own that serves your needs. Most of us have neither the skills nor the time to do so, so we're stuck with what's on offer. Perhaps Linux and OSS will change that, but I think there'll always be a place for commercial software.

 


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Tuesday, May 4, 1999

The morning newspaper ran an article about one of the local school systems passing a mandatory random drug testing policy for students who engage in extra-curricular activities. This in addition to the existing policy, which mandates drug testing for all students who are members of sports teams, student government, and the honor society.

These policies are clearly unconstitutional. Drug testing policies implemented by private (not government) employers are one thing. Private employers have no force majeur. Employees freely consent to testing if they want to work for that employer. If not, they are free to find jobs elsewhere. But schools are government agencies which students are required by law to attend. Schools have no more right to search students without a warrant than the police have to search my home. Of course, federal police have no right to search me before I board an airplane, either, but that doesn't stop them.

Someone once observed that people who are willing to trade freedom for security end up with neither. It appears that most of our citizens are not only willing but eager to do so. Few seem to notice that the so-called drug problem is almost completely an artifact of the laws that make drugs illegal. You'd think we'd have learned our lesson with Prohibition, which did nothing to reduce alcohol consumption, but spawned gangsters and organized crime. The government creates the problem in the first place and then uses it as an excuse to take away our rights. Government is not our friend.

* * * * *

This from Robin Gould [rgould@ihcc.org]:

I'm looking at updating my present server hardware. I've built a new system that (obviously) is totally unlike my old server, which is about 4 yrs. old and S L O W. We use our server for almost everything - proxy server, email, file server, etc, which has produced a complicated setup that I would rather not reinstall from scratch. Is there a way to restore the system from tape, or some other workaround that would not copy the system hive? I'm wondering if I can install a basic NT setup that will have all of my hardware settings, and then only copy the registry portions that pertain to the software, security accounts, etc. I have Backup Exec from Seagate, but if there is another product that will do this (Intelligent Disaster Recovery doesn't allow it) I would definitely consider it. Or am I just a dunderhead? (I respect your opinion on the above, especially my mental state.)

Robin Gould, LAN Manager
Indian Hills Community Church
1000 S 84th St
Lincoln, NE 68510-4411
402-483-4541
rgould@ihcc.org

Don't try it. I say that as someone who has attempted this more than once over the years. I've tried many methods, from the completely manual to various utilities designed to aid such migrations. The result has always been a mess. In an attempt to save time and aggravation, I ended up spending more time and being more aggravated than if I'd simply done an install from scratch. I learn slowly sometimes, but I do learn.

I recommend you set up the new system as a Backup Domain Controller. Once you have a basic NT installation up and running on it, promote it to PDC. Then, migrate functions gradually to the new box by re-installing everything. If there are problems, you can always revert a function to the original box. Once you have everything migrated, shut down the old box and put it aside until you're absolutely certain that everything is working properly. You'll end up with a new box that has a clean registry and is much less likely to experience strange problems.

* * * * *

This from Michael Baker [solo32@mindspring.com]:

I thought you might find this interesting. It appears that Microsoft has released a sp5 for NT. I found it through this site:

Here is the URL to get it:

I haven't seen it mentioned anywhere else. I did download and install it.I suspect that it might just be a compliation of fixes since sp4. It's only 30MB. Attached is the readme.txt file.

Enjoy!

---------------------

Michael Baker
solo32@mindspring.com

Thanks. That is news to me. I don't have time at the moment to go get it and install it, but I suspect many of my readers will.

* * * * *

And speaking of the SP5 beta, this from Ross Fleming [rossflem@serv.net]:

The URL was still valid as of 11:54 PDT. I don't have any reason to install it but you might be interested if you are not already involved.

On Mon, 3 May 1999 22:2:35, nt-list-admin@lyris.sunbelt-software.com wrote:

************************************************

NTools E-NewsFlash: NT4 Service Pack 5 Beta Out!

************************************************

Hi All,

As you know, when something interesting happens you will hear about it instantly. Well, I am writing this from my NT box at home with NT4 Service Pack _5_ installed !

This afternoon on the NTSYSADMIN list that Sunbelt sponsors it was discussed and a URL to a MS site was given that actually had the SP5 on it. I pulled it down immediately, made an emergency repair disk, took a deep breath and ran it. It's 32Meg and it came down in a few minutes at 70Kb/Sec via my cable modem without problems.

The system came right back up and I tested everything. Nothing seems to be broken at the moment. (Dell P2 450 with 128Ram and 10Gig SCSI). (Outlook, NetOp, IE, and a bunch of utilities all still work but this is only superficial testing)

It's a bit surprising that so shortly after SP4, they are already testing SP5 but they promised it would be around 3 months in between new packs and here it is already. I will test some more with it and let you know. Not much sense to download it because when the full release comes out you'll have to do it again.

The link that was up, will probably be shut down shortly but here it is anyway: I'm not giving any assurance that when you get this, it will still be there. These links have a tendency to be up only for a little while and disappear.

http://download.microsoft.com/msdownload/sp5/x86/en/Sp5i386.exe

IF you do get your hands on it, make an emergency repair, DO back up your stuff and do NOT run this on a production system. We'll let you know when we know a little more, this is only a heads-up!

Warm regards,

Stu

Thanks. I've never installed a beta service pack, and I don't think I'll start now. But for any of my readers who are interested, I will say that the link still worked as of 8:00 a.m. EDT.

* * * * *

This from Wesley Moore [zmoores@vsta.com]:

I got an interesting e-mail and thought you might find it interesting. I won't send it all through mail, as it's fairly long and available easily enough at:

http://papers.ssrn.com/paper.taf?abstract_id=161637)

Wesley Moore
zmoores@vsta.com

Thanks. I could get to the URL fine, but every time I tried to download the PDF I got only a 7K file, so I wasn't able to read the document. The entire premise seems strange, though. The intro page states that the paper explains why "public shootings are more sensitive than other violent crimes to concealed handguns, why the laws reduce both the number of shootings as well as their severity ..." And yet all of these shootings, without exception, have occurred in places where it is illegal to carry a concealed handgun. All of them.

 


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Wednesday, May 5, 1999

Today's date is one that many people in Winston-Salem take note of. A decade or so ago, we had an extremely severe storm on May 5th. It caused widespread destruction, although fortunately few injuries. Barbara tells me that the storm system that has caused so much devastation in Oklahoma is headed our way, albeit with greatly reduced strength, and that we're likely to have storms this afternoon. That's enough to make a lot of people nervous. Fortunately, we have a strongly reinforced area in our basement where we can take refuge if necessary.

* * * * *

Connectivity problems this morning, apparently at Bellsouth.net. I got email and was able to visit web sites until about 9:45 a.m., when everything died. I tried dropping the connection and dialing back in several times. No joy. It appears that Bellsouth.net has completely lost IP connectivity to the world, not to mention to their own SMTP servers. I am still able to POP, for what that's worth. I am not able to do much of anything else, including publishing this page.

Aha. Some testing established that the problem is with Bellsouth.net DNS. I'm able to get to web sites by entering their IP addresses, but DNS lookups fail. What I don't understand is why I'm still able to POP, because I'm pointed to the Bellsouth.net POP server by name rather than by IP address. I'm able to access anything by IP address, so perhaps I will be able to publish this, given that I have FrontPage configured to publish to my IP address rather than my site name. I set it up that way before the DNS change proliferated when I first moved this site to pair Networks and never got around to changing it. That may prove useful. If I had the time, I'd set up a local DNS and point to it rather than to the Bellsouth.net DNS servers.

As of 11:45 a.m. everything appears to be functioning normally except that the Bellsouth.net SMTP server isn't responding, so I can't send mail. That's easy enough to fix. I just reconfigured to point to mail.rdu.bellsouth.net instead of mail.lig.bellsouth.net.

* * * * *

I periodically go back to using my web browser with images turned off. I'm in that mode now. It makes pages load much faster and kills ads. But, unless I'm missing something, Internet Explorer 5 is almost unusable in this mode. With IE5 set not to display images by default, I can't find any easy way to display images for the active page on demand. I can, of course, put the cursor over an image placeholder, right click, and choose Show Picture. Or I can go into Advanced options, reconfigure IE to display images, and then do a Refresh. But there's no easy way I see to show all images on the current page while leaving the default at images-off.

As I've said before, I consider Netscape Navigator to be a poor excuse for a browser compared to IE. But Netscape does at least make it easy to work with images off as the default while still allowing you to show all images for a selected page simply by choosing View - Show Images, or by clicking the Images button on the toolbar. If there's a way to do this in IE5, I'd appreciate someone telling me about it.

I'm no Microsoft conspiracy theorist, but it does seem that Microsoft often does things to benefit themselves and commercial Internet sites at the expense of users. I've mentioned this issue before with respect to the way IE handles cookies, and the image display options are yet another example. By making it difficult to use images-off as the default, Microsoft ensures that most users will leave image display on. That also means, of course, that most users will see ads whether they want to or not. I don't think the feature limitations and default settings of IE are a coincidence. Microsoft, as usual, is doing their best to force users to behave the way Microsoft wants them to behave rather than allowing users to choose how they want their software to function. Of course, recent versions of Netscape Navigator are not blameless in that respect either.

* * * * *

This from Bo Leuf, who is bringing up a collaborative message server:

Why not sign in, just for fun...

http://leuf.net/cgi/wikidn?GuestBook

/ Bo

--

"Bo Leuf" bo@leuf.net
Leuf Network, www.leuf.net

Okay, I've joined. Let's see what happens.

* * * * *

This from Len Testa [lentesta@bellsouth.net]:

Hi- I saw on your web site that you're planning to write a review of the Epox KP6-BS Dual Slot 1 motherboard. Have you already tested the motherboard, and just not written the review? I'm thinking about purchasing one, and was looking for several opinions on it.

I've run it, but I haven't tested it extensively. Part of the problem is that the only two matched processors I have in the house are two Pentium II/300 units that currently reside in Barbara's and my main workstations. I pulled them long enough to make sure the board works as it should, but that was about it. I do have a bunch of other Slot 1 CPUs around here, but only one example of each, and I need those for testing and benchmarking other boards.

My first impression of the EPoX dual-CPU motherboard is that it's a typical EPoX board--well designed and constructed. The only drawback I noticed during my quick look was that the manual, as usual, shows a "Chinglish" influence. I understand that EPoX has or is currently having their manuals re-written by a native English speaker, so current production boards may well have a better manual. Even as it stands, the EPoX manual has the information you need to install and configure the board. The web site is one of the better motherboard web sites I've seen. It's easy to find current drivers and so on. Knowing what I do of EPoX and this motherboard, I wouldn't hesitate to buy one.

 


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Thursday, May 6, 1999

I hate both Microsoft Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator. If an alternative existed, I'd delete both of them from my systems. But there isn't a usable alternative. I looked at Opera, but it's no better than the mainstream browsers. In particular, its cookie handling was pathetic.

Actually, I'd be perfectly happy with IE with only three changes: (1) the "accept only cookies that get sent back to the originating server" option that Navigator provides; (2) the Show Images button and/or menu choice that Navigator provides to allow you to display all images on the active page; and (3) proper behavior of Favorites, so that choosing a Favorite brings it up in the current incidence of the browser instead of in the first-opened instance.

Overall, IE5 is the best browser out there. Unfortunately, those three problems make it nearly unusable for me. I'd switch to Navigator, but it's pathetic. It's incredibly slow, crashes frequently, and is missing support for recent standards. Not surprising, given its extreme age. Netscape hasn't updated it substantially in a couple of years. In Internet Years, that's forever.

I also hate these browsers because of their unhelpful Help. I'd about decided to abandon IE Favorites, create a bookmark page, and set it as my start page in IE. Unfortunately, IE Favorites exist on disk as discrete shortcuts in many different folders, rather than as the single bookmark.htm file that Netscape uses. I use IE about 99% of the time, so all my bookmarks exist as IE favorites. I decided to export those from IE, import them into Netscape to create a bookmark.htm file, and use that as my start page.

I wasn't sure how to get started, so I clicked Help in Navigator. It informed me that help was unavailable unless I had Javascript enabled. I keep Javascript and all other similar functions disabled by default. Okay, I enabled Javascript and clicked Help again. My first question is why the Help files aren't on my hard disk. After all, with the monstrous size of downloads for either of these browsers, there isn't any excuse for not including the help files with the distribution. At any rate, I got to Netscape help. I'd forgotten how completely useless it was. I've never found any help there. Never. Why pretend to have a help file if this is the best you can do? No mention of IE, Favorites, etc. Nothing.

Okay. I didn't expect IE Help to help much either, but I gave it a shot. IE at least does have a few local help files. Not many, and they're no more helpful than what Netscape provides, but at least they do provide local help. Apparently recognizing that the local help files are pathetic, Microsoft also includes a link for "Web Help." Clicking on it takes you to the Microsoft site. I got nowhere there, either. The first thing I ran into was Microsoft's insistence that you accept a cookie. That's bad enough, but their sanctimonious description of what cookies are reminds me of the US government's attempt back in the 1950's to convince people that a little bit of ionizing radiation from fallout was good for them. RADs (Radiation Absorbed Dose) and REMs (Roentgen Equivalent Mammal) sounded too scary, so they started talking about "Sunshine Units." Gag me with a spoon. Microsoft's explanation of cookies is similarly misleading. They somehow forget to mention how cookies are abused by Imgis/AdForce and other similar companies.

On the plus side of the ledger, Microsoft does provide a small utility that imports/exports bookmarks/favorites to/from Navigator/IE. You can download it from here. They don't talk about it much or make it easy to find, but it does appear to do the job.

* * * * *

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

I just installed IE5, and I have a couple of observations:

  1. If I open IE5, then open a couple of other IE5 windows by opening links, and then go to favorites to open something I do NOT have the problem you have mentioned about the favorite being opened in the original window. If you have some readily repeatable pattern for making this happen I'll get it a try. I opened the extra windows by right-clicking and selecting open in a new window.
  2. Something has confused the title bar on my IE5 installation so that only the first letter of the page title shows up! In other words, I have open page "M", or "T", or "W" or whatever. It also affects what is displayed on the title bar. Any suggestions? The title bars are fine in all other applications.

As far as number 1, double-click the IE5 icon on your desktop to open IE5. Display any web page, such as your default start page. Then do one of the following:

a. Double-click the IE5 icon to start another incidence of IE5. With that incidence active, choose a favorite. The favorite opens in the original incidence of IE5 rather than in the currently active one. (Note that if you enter the URL manually by typing or pasting it, that web page is displayed in the active incidence, as it should be).

b. With the first incidence active, choose File - New - Window (or Ctrl-N) to open a new incidence. With the new incidence active, again try selecting a Favorite. The Favorite will be displayed in the original incidence. Again, if you enter the URL yourself, that doesn't happen.

The only reasons I can think of that this is not happening to you are:

(a) my start page is a local disk file. I haven't tried this with the start page set to an actual page out on the web. I don't know why it would make any difference, but it may.

(b) my favorites are all nested. That is, I don't have any actual URLs that appear on the Links toolbar. Instead, I have folders, which contain URLs and other folders. Perhaps the Favorite you were using appeared directly on the Links toolbar? Again, I don't know why that should make a difference, but it might.

As far as number 2, I have no idea. I've never seen that behavior.

* * * * *

And this followup from Gary M. Berg [Gary_Berg@ibm.net]:

I tried both ways to get IE5 to have trouble with favorites in the original instance window. Neither one failed, in both cases they opened the favorite in the current window, not the original. My start page is also a local disk file, and I have lots of folders nested in Favorites, and used them too. Same as you.

>> As far as number 2, I have no idea. I've never seen that behavior. <<

Well, it's a bit annoying to not know what the title is of the page you are looking at. I can live with it, I think, it's just annoying.

Hmmm, if I uninstall IE5 will my previous IE4 come back? I could try that when I get my MSDN copy of IE5 and see if it helps. I installed from a copy of IE5 I downloaded from the MSDN site, I would think it would work OK.

Hmm. That's truly strange. I've installed IE5 on three or four machines, and it exhibits the same behavior on all of them. Perhaps it's something one of us changed in the configuration. It must behave the way I've described by default, because I intentionally installed it using all defaults, fired it up immediately without making any changes, and it behaved as I've described. The other possibility is that there's something weird about the distribution that I'm using. I got it from CNET, I think.

As far as uninstalling IE5, I actually did that at one point, and it brought back IE4 perfectly. As I recall, there's a "coexistence" option that you have to check on the original ie5setup.exe dialog when you're downloading the distributions if you want this to work.

* * * * *

This from Jay Ranger [ranger-j@altavista.net]:

In your column, you said,

"As I've said before, I consider Netscape Navigator to be a poor excuse for a browser compared to IE. But Netscape does at least make it easy to work with images off as the default while still allowing you to show all images for a selected page simply by choosing View - Show Images, or by clicking the Images button on the toolbar. If there's a way to do this in IE5, I'd appreciate someone telling me about it."

Well, here's what I did. In the "accessories pack" for IE 5, there are some neat tools, including the highlighter for block-marked text, etc. There is also a file called Toggle Images.exe.

So, I renamed the program to I.exe and put it on IE's links bar, on which I put one- or two-letter names for the links, to fit as many in as possible. One click on the Toggle Images icon, and the page reloads itself with images. (Or without images, depending on which way you had the image toggler.)

If you have multiple instances of IE 5 running, it doesn't affect the other pages (unless you reload them). So, toggle the images back off before you start working in another browser window.

I also moved the links bar up to the same line that has "File Edit" etc., starting it just to the right of the "Help". I currently have nine icons there with one or two letters each, plus a folder icon named "T" (for some forgotten reason), which, when clicked on, drops down a list of several more links. In addition, when you click on the arrow on the extreme-right end of the links bar, that gives you a drop-down list of all the rest of the links on your links bar.

Actually, I no longer have that program on the "exposed part" of my links bar -- using LinkFox (www.linkfox.com) to prefetch links I drag to it gets the text part of the page preloaded (it can be set to preload images, but the images fill in around the text as I'm reading it, so unless I go to a graphics-intensive page where I want to see all the pictures, I don't turn it on). I adjust LinkFox's "window" to fit in the upper-right part of IE, just to the left of the "X" button, so it's not covering anything I want to use (except some of the links bar icons). I can see six lines of URLs that it's prefetching (or completed fetching) in fact, since I'm usually using Atguard, there's room for another couple of lines without bringing the window down into the viewing area of IE 5.

One really handy thing about it is that you can be reading a page and throwing in links you want to follow (including ads, pictures, etc.), and when you're through with the page you can just click on the next un-gotten-to link and bring it up no more having to scroll back and try to remember what links you wanted to find and follow next. (I know you keep several browser windows open, as you've said, so I suppose you tend to open a link in a new window so it will be ready when you're ready for it. That works, too.)

Well, I hope that gives you the solution you wanted for handling images in IE 5.

Jay Ranger

Ranger-J@altavista.net

Thanks! I downloaded the IE5 Web Accessories, and the image toggle utility seems to work fine. There are also a couple of other tools that look intriguing, including the Links List tool and the Open Frame in New Window tool. After five minutes or so playing with it, this looks like it's a keeper.

While I was there, I downloaded the IE5 Power Tweaks (click here to download it directly). Power Tweaks gives me one think I really like--the ability simply to right-click on a link and copy it to the clipboard.

* * * * *

This from my friend Steve Tucker [steve@wakeolda.com]. We've been talking about Time-Warner's plans to roll out cable-modem service in Winston-Salem later this year:

I found the Time Warner subscriber agreement for Charlotte while playing around and thought you might like to see it. I would think the Winnton-Salem subscriber agreement would be about the same. I just quickly looked it over and noted these key points:

  • Time Warner Cable grants to the Subscriber a limited non-exclusive license to use the Software in object code form only, solely for the purpose of connecting Subscriber's single Computer to the Service.

Wonder if they will be able to see a proxy server?

  • Subscriber will not resell the Service, or any portion thereof, or otherwise charge others to use the Service, or any portion thereof. The Service is for personal use only, and Subscriber agrees not to use the Service for operation as an Internet Service Provider, to host web sites for other parties or for any other business enterprise or to connect the Cable modem to any server or to any computer outside the Subscriber's premises.

It almost sounds like you could be your own Personal Host.

Anyway, thought you might be interested in these couple of items.

As far as the first point, I wouldn't worry too much about connecting your home network. Technically, you will have only one computer connected to their cable modem. That is, you'll have one of your NT boxes configured with two network cards. One of the cards will connect to the cable modem. The other will connect that computer to the rest of your network. All inbound and outbound traffic will be communicated between the cable modem and the machine it is connected to. Time-Warner has nothing to say about what other computers that NT box communicates with, or what happens to traffic before it arrives at or after it leaves that box.

As far as the second, I wonder if that means that I can't run my corporation's domain on that connection. We'll see.

 


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Friday, May 7, 1999

It's never a good start to the day when your coffee maker dies. As usual, I started a pot of coffee this morning. On her way out the door to the gym and grocery store, Barbara stopped by my office to tell me that the Mr. Coffee was making a loud noise. I went in and found that it was making a loud crackling noise, not electrical but mechanical. It put about a quarter of a pot of water through the grounds and then turned itself off. I shook it gently in case something was blocking the input and then turned it on again. No joy. I dumped the remaining water, put in fresh, and tried again. No joy. We got this thing as a gift and it's less than six months old. Getting it replaced is probably not worth the hassle. I'll never buy a Mr. Coffee product.

* * * * *

Back to work on the chapters. I'm doing something now that's not fun. Cutting words. In theory, I'm writing first draft chapters that will serve as core material for both PC Hardware in a Nutshell and PC Hardware: The Definitive Guide. Because the former will be about 400 pages, and the latter perhaps three times that size, something obviously has to give.

I'm writing the first draft chapters "fat." That is, they're more suited to the big book than the small one. But that means I have to cut them for the small one, and that's no fun. I just finished a cut on the memory chapter. The first draft was 14,000 words. I was aiming for a 30% reduction or thereabouts--something like 10,000 words. I worked for several days on that, sweating blood. I actually did cut the chapter to about 10,000 words, but then I added a section with about 1,000 words, so the final first-cut on the small book chapter is 11,000 words. In some respects, the cutting is actually harder than the writing.

Once I've done that, the fun starts for the big book chapters. I get to expand those from the first draft, which is actually a lot easier than cutting. Some of the chapters for the small book will end up being two or three full-size chapters in the big book. For example, the small book chapter "Hard Disks" will end up being three chapters in the big book, each with significantly expanded detail, step-by-steps, etc.

* * * * *

This from Jay Ranger [ranger-j@altavista.net]:

You said in your column,

Actually, I'd be perfectly happy with IE with only three changes: (1) the "accept only cookies that get sent back to the originating server" option that Navigator provides; (2) the Show Images button and/or menu choice that Navigator provides to allow you to display all images on the active page; and (3) proper behavior of Favorites, so that choosing a Favorite brings it up in the current incidence of the browser instead of in the first-opened instance.

(1) Use AtGuard! (www.atguard.com) On every site that wants to use cookies, you can tell it to always accept or always block, or accept or block this one instance. Although it doesn't distinguish between single-session cookies and more permanent ones (yet), AtGuard maintains a very active set of discussion groups and is always looking for suggestions for changes and additions for new versions. That sounds like it would be a useful addition, although you probably have an idea on most sites that you go to as to whether you want to accept cookies from them or not. (And you can always change it later.)

What else can AtGuard do? When a site wants to use Javascript, you have the same options as above, plus you can choose to block only the pop-up windows script for that site. You also can control, for each site, Java applets and also (separately) ActiveX controls.

What else? For each site you visit, you can control (1)Cookies, (2) Referer [sic] field, (3) Browser (user-agent), and (4) E-mail (from). For each, you can (a) Permit, (b) Block, or (c) Reply. "Reply" for each item has a field that you can fill in with whatever you want your system to report when a site tries to get that information from you. I have the most fun with the Browser field sites tracking what browsers people are using are likely to have some strange-looking browser names showing up when I come through. :)

What else? Lots of things. It controls all outside communications, so you have to tell it to allow your e-mail program what inbound and outbound access it can have same for your Net audio program, etc. You can control the ports and the sites your programs can access, and the same with sites trying to access your devices. As far as I can tell, it's a great personal firewall (although I'm certainly a novice in such things.)

(2) Well, took care of that yesterday. :)

(3) Hmm... I'd NEVER seen that happen with IE. When I start IE, I hit CTRL-N a couple of times, so that I get three copies running. I use John Dvorak's "Personal Portal" on my hard drive (www.dvorak.org he invites people to steal it and use it). I've about doubled the number of links and keep adding stuff to it. Very handy -- just hit the Home icon and click on where you want to go.

I'm using NoteTab Pro, which has keeps each open file with a tab, and "C:\Home.htm" is on one of the tabs. The program remembers what files were open when you closed it, and opens them all up again and also leaves each one scrolled down to the point you were when you closed the program. (www.notetab.com). I keep 3 .htm files open in it, among other kinds of files.

But I digress. I keep the first copy of IE available for LinkFox (which I mentioned yesterday) because that's where LinkFox is going to put the page up, no matter which browser window I drag the link from. But the other windows work fine from favorites of all types the favorites icon (bringing up the sidebar window), the favorites drop-down menu, or the links bar.

Well, I was finally able to duplicate what you are talking about. Yesterday I mentioned I had a folder showing on my links bar if I click on that and select a site, it shows up in the first browser instance. That's the only time I've seen it happen with IE (guess I never used it before in any but the first browser window).

The cure? I moved the folder further to the right, so it didn't show in the visible part of the links bar. Then, when I click on the arrow at the extreme right of the bar and get the dropdown list, I can click on that folder, and then click on a link. It shows up in the current browser window, not the first one.

I tried further. I put folders inside the folder, and tried them. Again, all links showed up in the current browser window.

This is weird! I have no idea why it should make any difference to IE as to whether the folder comes is in the visible part of the links bar, or is accessed from the scrolled-off part but it does!

Well, anything else I can help with today? :)

Regards,

Jay Ranger
Ranger-J@altavista.net

I've never tried AtGuard!, but I may give it a shot. The problem I've had with similar programs is that they function as more-or-less proxy servers. That's difficult for me to use, because I already run a proxy server (WinGate) to provide shared Internet access on my network. Every time I've tried to use one of these proxy-based add-on cookie management utilities, I end up not being able to get it working right, if at all.

And you're absolutely right about the difference between a folder that's visible on the Links bar and one that's not. I arbitrarily added several folders to my Links bar to force some of them off the visible part of it. Sure enough, when I tried it, I found that it behaves exactly as you described. I was kind of hoping that the change to proper behavior would also carry over to the links on the visible portion, but no such luck. That's a really strange bug.

* * * * *

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

Since your browsers are being annoyances again, I thought I'd share with you a couple of products I've found that help things a bit. I came across them when researching my Windows 9x book.

The first is Internet Junkbuster, available at www.junkbusters.com. It's a Unix port, so there's no pretty GUI, and you configure it with text files. But you can be as lax or as draconian as you want with it. If you want to kill all cookies, it'll do it. If you want to fake cookies, it'll do it. If you want to misrepresent your browser to throw off any hostile ActiveX controls, it'll do that. And it can block ads.

If you want a GUI, try out Proxomitron (http://proxomitron.cjb.net/). It doesn't allow quite as much cookie control, but it's easier to configure. It will optionally just load the first frame of animated GIFs and turn the HTML blink tag into bold. I like those features because I hate blinky Web pages. If I want motion on my screen, I'll rent a movie or watch TV or something.

Both do a pretty darn good job of killing ads, which helps usability. The pages download a lot faster, but the graphical elements on the page come through.

I'm using Proxomitron at work and Junkbuster at home. Overall I think I prefer Proxomitron because it's easier to get up and running faster and it gives me control I can't immediately figure out how to get from Junkbuster, but I really wouldn't want to go back to life without one or the other of them. Proxomitron is better for taking control over how pages are displayed, while Junkbuster has a definite edge in controlling cookies. The former is more important to me than the latter.

They're both free, and they work with any browser that supports proxy services. I've used both extensively with Netscape browsers; less so with Microsoft browsers.

I hope this helps.

Dave Farquhar
Microcomputer Analyst, Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod
farquhar@lcms.org

Views expressed in this document are my own and, unless stated otherwise, in no way represent the opinion of my employer.

Thanks. I actually did download Internet JunkBuster six months or a year ago. I ran into the problem of trying to configure what amounts to a second proxy server on my network, which already runs the WinGate proxy server for shared Internet access. Given its name, I suspect the same might be true of Proxomitron, but I'll give it a look.

* * * * *

The following from Tom Jenkins, who asks that his email address not be published:

I live in El Paso Texas and we are graced with the TW Road Runner system. When it works (which is most of the time 99%) it is great. Good connections and downloads.

The conditions are you can have up to four computers on one account at no extra cost, you can use your own NICs or they will provide one and if you have more than one computer you have to provide your own hub. The system is very secure and adding a new computer or changing to a different one causes the system to STOP. However TW is understanding and will add a new computer for only $60 a visit. It doesn't matter if it is a network or not.

Last Thanksgiving my oldest son came to visit from colege and immediately set up a second network with his brother to play games using different NICs and hub and TW detected this and disconnected the system. It took several days before I got a rep who asked the right questions and discovered the third computer on a seperate network and turn the connection back on. I was not told about this until then and since then I have found that simply changing over computers will stop it.

However when it works it is great, not as fast as claimed by TW but still better than anything else around here. I won't give prices since they will be different there and hopefully lower.

Please don't include my e-mail address if you put this in your day notes. And I still prefer Navigator 4.08 to anything from MS.

It sounds like they're marrying IP address to MAC address, which other people have mentioned here in the past. The four computer limit obviously applies for a simple network. That is, one in which each PC is visible to the cable modem, and each PC is assigned a unique public IP address. I commend TW for a reasonable policy. The vast majority of homes will be well served within the four computer limit, and doing it this way allows them to price the service reasonably for individual users while keeping businesses from taking advantage of it.

I'm in an odd position, however. I have many computers in my home (exactly how many is a matter of opinion), but only Barbara and I work here. So, although only one or two computers are typically being actively used at any one time, many computers require Internet access. I can easily get around that by setting up a routed network using the WinGate proxy server. The WinGate machine will connect directly to the cable modem via one Ethernet card, and will be the only machine visible to the cable modem (or to TW). That machine will have a second Ethernet card in it which connects to a hub that also serves the rest of my network. The WinGate machine will have a public IP address. The other machines on the network will have private IP addresses behind the WinGate proxy. When one of those machines needs to access the Internet, it does so via the proxy. Only the proxy is publicly visible, and all inbound and outbound traffic are routed to it.

Actually, if they provide up to four IP addresses for free, I may well put up more than one machine with a public IP address. That might have some advantages if I decide to run my web server, mail servers, etc. locally, either on NT or Linux.

As far as Navigator, I've about concluded that it's a question of operating system. Several people have observed that Netscape makes do with one "32-bit" version rather than having separate versions for Win9X and WinNT. I have had many people who run Win9X say nice things about Navigator, but most of those who run WinNT feel the same as I do. Apparently, Nav works fine on Win9X, but is a dog on NT.

* * * * *

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

Yes, Proxomitron does use a Proxy server, but you can feed it another proxy. That should let Proxomitron use the Wingate server's proxy, so your local machine uses Proxomitron, then Proxomitron goes to Wingate.

You get a chain of proxies, but they're both designed to be able to work that way. Figuring out how to get Junkbuster to work in a proxy chain is probably a challenge; I haven't tried it since I just have a two-PC network and I don't try to use the second one for Web browsing.

I visited the Proxomitron web site last night, and it looks like a good product. I'll probably download it and give it a try once I get a free moment. Thanks.

* * * * *

This followup from Steve Tucker [steve@wakeolda.com]:

I did notice on the Charlotte web site that static IP addresses were available for business customers.

The cost for the consumer plan in Charlotte is $39.95 which includes the rental of a Road Runner modem. The installation is $99 which includes a 10-base T network card if you need it.

Come on Winston-Salem!

This could save me some $$$

Steve Tucker
Steve@wakeolda.com
http://www.wakeolda.com

I found the Charlotte site. It'll be interesting to see what happens here. I'll probably let you be the guinea pig...

 


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Saturday, May 8, 1999

I was as sick as the proverbial dog last night. I went to bed feeling okay, but woke up soon after feeling rotten. Pournelle talks sometimes about people he wants to "find and beat senseless." My vote in that category goes to whoever designed the packaging for Imodium. Little bitty pills on a rigid piece of plasticized cardboard, with bulletproof shrink-wrap securing them to the backing. Trying getting to the pill in the middle of the night when you're not feeling well. Whatever happened to that elegant design drug makers used to use? A small bottle with pills in it. At any rate, I'm feeling better except that I've had only a few hours' sleep.

* * * * *

PC World ran an interesting article on ebook technology. More specifically, it's about Glassbook and their Electronic Book Exchange (EBX) protocols, which will allow electronic books to be circulated freely while protecting them against duplication. On the face of it, it appears to have all of the features I've mentioned in the past as being required for e-books to succeed.

The situation with electronic books is similar to that with MP3 music distribution, if not as far advanced. Music companies are running scared, because the only value they add is marketing and distribution. But MP3 and similar technologies will allow content creators to sell directly to their audiences. Why should Tom Petty earn only a few dollars on a $15 CD when he can instead sell his music directly from his web site? By cutting out the middlemen--record companies, distributors, and music stores--Petty can sell his music for much less while actually making more money. The only losers are those in the traditional distribution chain. The Revenge of the Artists may finally be imminent.

The same situation obtains for writers, albeit less advanced. Anyone with a PC can play MP3 titles, and portable MP3 players like the Diamond Rio make it possible to take MP3s with you. That's not true with electronic books, or at least not yet. Ebook content is still proprietary, and everyone involved is trying to keep it that way. Keeping it proprietary allows all the traditional members of the distribution chain to continue to get a cut.

For that matter, the ebook vendors are getting a cut. There's been some discussion on the Computer Book Publishing mailing list about Rocket. Their ebook reader apparently can use only content formatted with their proprietary extensions. If you have a Rocket electronic book reader, you buy an e-book from someone like Barnes & Noble. Although it's ridiculous, you have to pay about the same price you'd pay for a traditional hardback. Everyone get their cut--the publisher, Barnes & Noble, etc. What's particularly bizarre is that Rocket also gets a cut. It's as though the manufacturer of your VCR got a kickback every time you bought a commercial tape.

The real economics are a lot different. For traditional books, the publisher adds value in several ways. First, of course, is distribution, which is not (or should not be) an issue for e-books. But the publisher also provides various services that are needed for ebooks just as much as for traditional books. Editing, layout, design, and so on will also be needed for e-books, so publishers will continue to have a place, albeit greatly changed. Who doesn't have a place? Distributors and booksellers. There's nothing to distribute, since the e-book exists as a bunch of bits that can be downloaded across the net. Booksellers no longer have a place, because readers can deal directly with the author. If I want the latest Tom Clancy or Jack Whyte, I'll hit the author's web site and download it.

And that cuts out a lot of the costs involved. On a typical $25 novel, the author receives a 15% royalty, or $3.75. (Computer book authors are paid on net rather than gross, and make perhaps $1.50 to $2.00 per book if they're very lucky and as little as $0.25 per book on high volume titles like ... for Dummies). The publisher may sell that book to the distributor for $11.50. After paying the author his $3.75, that leaves the publisher with $7.75 to cover all his costs, including editorial, production, marketing, etc. The distributor may sell that book to the bookstore for $13.00, pocketing the $1.50 difference. From that, the distributor pays all its costs. The bookseller discounts the title from 20% ($20 selling price) to 30% ($17.50 selling price), leaving it with $4.50 to $7.00 gross profit.

With electronic books, things change a lot. Assume the author still gets $3.75 per copy. The publisher (or some substitute) is still needed for some things, but other things are now not needed. Rather than $7.75, the publisher can probably do everything necessary (editing, marketing, etc.) for perhaps $1.50 (printing those books and shipping them around is very costly), boosting the current cost of the book to $5.25. The distributor and the bookstore are no longer needed at all. Adding in the cost of running the web site and various other incidentals might bring the selling price of the e-book to $6 or $8. Note that all of this is under the control of the author. Gasp. What a horrible thought. Actually putting the content creators in charge of the content they've created.

Once sales of the book at the $6 to $8 price begin to slide, the author can do the electronic equivalent of taking it to paperback. A popular new Clancy title might sell for three months for $7. Once those high-margin sales have tapered off, Clancy can simply move the book to his backlist and continue to sell it for perhaps $3.

This is where things are headed. Count on it. It may be several years before it becomes common, but it will eventually. Publishers, distributors, and bookstores are of course doing everything they can to prevent all this from happening. For now, they hold the whip hand and use it to force authors to accept contracts that give up electronic rights to publishers. But it's impossible to hold back the tide.

Barbara and I talked yesterday about publishing our own electronic book on a non-computer topic. It's early days yet, but I think our idea is viable, even given the current lack of display devices. We'll see what happens. She'd be doing the vast bulk of the work on the book. Doing it will be a gamble in the sense that it will take a lot of her time, but we'd not have to invest a lot of money. So it may be a reasonable gamble.

* * * * *

I'm not sure what pair Networks' problem is with handling mail. I have several autoforwards set up to accept mail for various users at a ttgnet.com address and forward those messages to external addresses. For example, my co-author Craig Hunt has the address craig@ttgnet.com, which is set up to autoforward to his actual address elsewhere. Same thing with some others: barbara@ttgnet.com forwards to our POP account with BellSouth, from which she POPs her mail. My friend Steve Tucker is steve@ttgnet.com, which is set up to forward to his steve@wakeolda.com address.

I've had frequent problems with pair Networks' mail handling. The two most common are problems delivering return receipts. When Barbara sends a message with return-receipt requested, the receipt is never forwarded to her. It ends up in the main mailbox, from which I POP, even though it is addressed to barbara@ttgnet.com. Okay, that I can live with. It's annoying, and it shouldn't be happening, but it's not critical.

Worse is their inept handling of messages with multiple addresses. One of our friends sends us email with both barbara@ttgnet.com and thompson@ttgnet.com on the To: line. Those messages are delivered to Barbara, but I never see them. The servers at pair Networks deliver the message to barbara@ttgnet.com, but don't bother to deliver the one to thompson@ttgnet.com. Geez. pair Networks says that's just an artifact of sendmail. Maybe so, but I've never seen it happen before, and I've used mail on a lot of sendmail-based systems.

Last night, the worst yet happened. The pair Networks mail server delivered a message addressed to me to steve@wakeolda.com instead of delivering it to me. That's completely unacceptable. Here are the full headers (except I've deleted the subject, which is confidential, and one email distribution list address that I'm sure O'Reilly wouldn't want made public.):

Received: from mail6.bellsouth.net (mail6.bellsouth.net [205.152.96.6])
by mail4.lig.bellsouth.net (8.8.8-spamdog/8.8.5) with ESMTP id QAA27858
for <wakeolda@lig.bellsouth.net>; Fri, 7 May 1999 16:37:59 -0400 (EDT)
Received: from wawrra.pair.com (wawrra.pair.com [209.68.1.227])
by mail6.bellsouth.net (8.8.8-spamdog/8.8.5) with ESMTP id QAA28150
for <wakeolda@bellsouth.net>; Fri, 7 May 1999 16:46:29 -0400 (EDT)
Received: (from ttgnet@localhost) by wawrra.pair.com (8.9.1/8.6.12) id
QAA04640 for wakeolda@bellsouth.net; Fri, 7 May 1999 16:46:28 -0400 (EDT)
Received: from rock.west.ora.com (rock.west.ora.com [207.25.97.8]) by
wawrra.pair.com (8.9.1/8.6.12) with ESMTP id QAA04624 for
<thompson@ttgnet.com>; Fri, 7 May 1999 16:46:27 -0400 (EDT)
X-Envelope-To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Received: from oreilly.com (tim.west.ora.com [207.25.97.99])
by rock.west.ora.com (8.9.1/8.9.1) with ESMTP id NAA21005;
Fri, 7 May 1999 13:45:52 -0700 (PDT)
Message-ID: 37335114.CE90BE78@oreilly.com
Date: Fri, 07 May 1999 13:46:12 -0700
From: "Tim O'Reilly" tim@oreilly.com
Reply-To: tim@oreilly.com
Organization: O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.
X-Mailer: Mozilla 4.5 [en] (Win98; I)
X-Accept-Language: en
MIME-Version: 1.0
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
CC: "'Steven Abrams'" abrams@oreilly.com
Subject: Re: [confidential]
References: 002401be9896$f72c1410$a16fa8c0@kerby.ttgnet.com
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit
X-UIDL: 349db1788ad51f7d68d401d8709d7162

There's just no excuse for this happening. A confidential message was delivered to someone other than the designated recipient. Fortunately, Steve was around to check his mail, and immediately forwarded the misdelivered message to me. But he might not have been there, and an important message might have been lost or delayed. Worse, what if pair Networks had forwarded the message to someone who should not have seen it. I emailed pair Networks' urgent account at 18:06 yesterday, and haven't heard a word from them.

* * * * *

This followup from joshua [catpro@catpro.dragonfire.net]:

Have you tried Mozilla M5? I know that it is still early beta code, but many people are reporting that it is already more stable that Netscape 4.5. Personally, I wish the Mozilla project would cut out some of their desired features for the sake of being able to get a final product out soon. Then start in again on the remainder of the desired new features. I don't think that they should have taken over a year to make their first release. And that is assuming that their first release comes out sometime this year.

If you think the browser situation is bad under Windows, you should try it under linux. Even if Microsoft made a linux port of IE, based on their Sun port, I'd say that it would be worthless. I've used their Sun port, and crashes a lot and is darn slow. And Netscape for linux crashes a lot. Plus it is very slow at rendering html code. I for one will be very happy when I get M5 working on my computer. But, while Netscape is a pain, it isn't so bad that getting Mozilla is on my list of things to do. Unlike you, my income is based on writing software, not reviewing. Thus I don't have quite the incentive to get the newest of everything working.

--

Joshua Boyd
http://catpro.dragonfire.net/joshua

No. I looked at Mozilla several months ago, when it was basically just a stubbed out browser that demonstrated the new rendering engine. Actually, I don't get paid to review software. I write books about PC hardware, Windows NT, networking, etc. So my browsers are working tools rather than review fodder. So, although I would love to see a usuable Mozilla browser, I don't have the time to mess with beta releases. I'll probably try the release version when (or if) it finally ships. Until then, I'm pretty much stuck with Internet Explorer.

* * * * *

This followup from Jay Ranger [ranger-j@altavista.net]:

In response to Dave Farquhar's e-mail to you today (Friday, May 7, 1999), a couple more things I thought of regarding AtGuard, but had neglected to mention.

It blocks, typically, a few thousand ads a day for me. Doesn't allow the site to send them, saving the Net (and me) that transfer time (which AtGuard can dutifully report to me as to the number of hours, minutes, and seconds saved, if I choose to bring up that report. You have total control over the ad-handling, and you could allow the showing of all ads, for example, by bannerswap.com and ads.infospace.com, while choosing to block all others.)

And it allows all normal images, buttons, etc. to display properly. I tried another program for a while, but that one displayed half of the navigation buttons on some ZD pages, and thought the other half were ads. Go figure.

Cookie faking? I am very tempted to tell AtGuard to reply to cookie requests with "No! I don't want any more cookies I want CAKE today!" :)

And AtGuard would still send the proper cookies to sites on which I choose to enable cookie-handling, for shopping-cart purposes, etc. And just block them for sites where I didn't want to send either a "cute message" or a proper cookie.

Also, it has the option to make animated images non-repeating. On a site-by-site basis and you can set that as the default, and enable it for sites like www.hampsterdance.com. :)

No, I don't work for AtGuard. :)

(Nor any of the other companies whose programs I mention, even though I feel I must come across as a proselytizer at times. I'm just so tired of trying out so many programs that don't live up to their claims, that I tend to strongly recommend those gems that I manage to find.)

As far as Dave's point that the programs he mentions are free -- AtGuard is $29.95. They used to have a trial download of their latest version (3.1) on their site, but I don't see it there now. I got it for $14.95 on a special from RealAudio, [here] which is apparently currently still available, and there one can also choose to get RealAudio's registered advanced player (RealPlayer Plus G2) for ten dollars off.

Well, on AtGuard's site, they say (if you add a "/download" to their web address of www.atguard.com) that their free 30-day trial period is over. I recently saw their 2.2 version somewhere over on ZD. However, if anyone wants to try it, I still have the current-version 3.1 30-day demo program, which I suppose would be legal for me to send. (It will still work after 30 days after installation, but then it will start nagging you a lot.)

Regards,

Jay Ranger
Ranger-J@altavista.net

I may give AtGuard a try, but I've actually just about got Internet Explorer working the way I want it to. The Toggle Images program works fine. In fact, I think I prefer it to the way Navigator works. Instead of toggling images on a per-page basis, when I get to a site where I want to view images, I simply toggle images on. IE then displays images for all pages until I tell it to go back to not displaying images.

I've also been doing some experimenting with IE5 Security Zones, which allow you to define separate sets of security settings for different zones. The main things I care about are disabling cookies, active content, etc. on most sites while allowing them on just a few sites. I don't care, for example, if Microsoft or Amazon sends me a cookie. So I think what I'm going to do is add a few sites (like Microsoft) to my Trusted Sites zone and allow cookies and ActiveX for that zone. That way, I'll actually be able to use the Microsoft site. I'll keep most other sites in the Internet Zone, with cookies and ActiveX disabled, but with a reasonable set of options enabled. Obnoxious sites will go into the Restricted sites zone, with everything disabled. It's not entirely clear to me how well this will all work, but I'll find out.

 


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Sunday, May 9, 1999

Mothers' Day today. Barbara's parents are coming over for a cookout, and I need to get to work on cleaning house, doing laundry, etc. Then, if there's time, I need to get some more work done on the book.

I forgot to mention that we have a new coffee maker. Barbara called Mr. Coffee Friday, and they told her she needed to ship it back to them or drive to their nearest center in Greensboro. It's hardly worth a 60 or 70 mile round trip and a couple hours of her time to get a $60 coffee maker replaced. She called Linens 'n Things, the place where she bought it (it was a Christmas gift, but from her to me), and they told her to bring it in and they'd give her a new one. On her way out the door, I asked her to see if they'd trade for something with a better name on it than Mr. Coffee, perhaps a Braun. She came back with a Krups, having paid the difference.

I'd already brought up the old percolator from the downstairs kitchen. Perhaps it's my imagination, but I've always thought that the old-style percolators made better coffee. This one even makes cheap Robusta-based grocery store coffee like Maxwell House drinkable. Usually, I can't abide that stuff. Barbara also picked up several pounds of high grade Arabica-based coffee from the Fresh Market, so I'm all set.

That's another thing that Jimmy Carter and his hyper-inflation has to answer for. The double-digit price inflation under Carter killed a lot of good things. The growth of discount stores exploded under Carter, as people tried to save money any way possible. That meant the death of personal service and the near disappearance of high-quality goods. The name brand coffees that grocery stores used to sell were all Arabica. Robusta was considered garbage, and very little was even imported into the United States. That's all changed now, and I blame Carter. With our inflated currency, decent Arabica costs $7 or $9 per pound, and people aren't willing to pay that. So what we now find on grocery store shelves is coffee with the same old brand names but nothing like the same old beans.

Nowadays, it's hard to find decent service and quality goods even if you're willing to pay for them. Family-owned hardware stores are about gone, and the junk-filled shelves at Lowes and Home Depot are no substitute. Barbara and I try to avoid those mass-market hardware places. We drive to Rural Hall and visit one of the few family-owned hardware stores that's survived around here. Same thing with drugstores. I wish we had something other than the mass-market Eckards and CVS, but the days of independent drugstores are about over. We've given up a lot with this shift to corporate chains. I'd be happy if Home Depot, Wal-Mart, and CVS disappeared tomorrow, but I suppose I'm in a minority.

 

 

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