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.
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
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
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
* * * * *
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 [firstname.lastname@example.org]:
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.
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
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
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
* * * * *
This from Robin Gould [email@example.com]:
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
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 [firstname.lastname@example.org]:
I thought you might find this interesting.
It appears that Microsoft has released a sp5 for NT. I found it through this
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
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 [email@example.com]:
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,
NTools E-NewsFlash: NT4 Service
Pack 5 Beta Out!
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
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.
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!
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 [firstname.lastname@example.org]:
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:
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.
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
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...
"Bo Leuf" email@example.com
Leuf Network, www.leuf.net
Okay, I've joined. Let's see what happens.
* * * * *
This from Len Testa [firstname.lastname@example.org]:
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.
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,
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
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
- 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
- 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
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
* * * * *
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 [email@example.com]:
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
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
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.
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
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
* * * * *
This from my friend Steve Tucker [firstname.lastname@example.org].
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
- 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
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.
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 [email@example.com]:
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
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
What else can AtGuard do? When a site wants
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
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
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
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?
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 [firstname.lastname@example.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
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
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.
Microcomputer Analyst, Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod
Views expressed in this document are my own
and, unless stated otherwise, in no way represent the opinion of my
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
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
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 [email@example.com]:
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 [firstname.lastname@example.org]:
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
Come on Winston-Salem!
This could save me some $$$
I found the Charlotte site. It'll be interesting to see
what happens here. I'll probably let you be the guinea pig...
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'
* * * * *
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 email@example.com,
which is set up to autoforward to his actual address elsewhere. Same thing
with some others: firstname.lastname@example.org
forwards to our POP account with BellSouth, from which she POPs her mail.
My friend Steve Tucker is email@example.com,
which is set up to forward to his firstname.lastname@example.org
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 email@example.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 firstname.lastname@example.org
and email@example.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 firstname.lastname@example.org,
but don't bother to deliver the one to email@example.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
Last night, the worst yet happened. The pair Networks mail server
delivered a message addressed to me to firstname.lastname@example.org
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
by mail4.lig.bellsouth.net (8.8.8-spamdog/8.8.5) with ESMTP id QAA27858
for <email@example.com>; Fri, 7 May 1999 16:37:59 -0400
Received: from wawrra.pair.com (wawrra.pair.com [18.104.22.168])
by mail6.bellsouth.net (8.8.8-spamdog/8.8.5) with ESMTP id QAA28150
for <firstname.lastname@example.org>; 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 email@example.com; Fri, 7 May 1999 16:46:28 -0400
Received: from rock.west.ora.com (rock.west.ora.com [22.214.171.124]) by
wawrra.pair.com (8.9.1/8.6.12) with ESMTP id QAA04624 for
<firstname.lastname@example.org>; Fri, 7 May 1999 16:46:27 -0400 (EDT)
Received: from oreilly.com (tim.west.ora.com [126.96.36.199])
by rock.west.ora.com (8.9.1/8.9.1) with ESMTP id NAA21005;
Fri, 7 May 1999 13:45:52 -0700 (PDT)
Date: Fri, 07 May 1999 13:46:12 -0700
From: "Tim O'Reilly" email@example.com
Organization: O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.
X-Mailer: Mozilla 4.5 [en] (Win98; I)
CC: "'Steven Abrams'" firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Re: [confidential]
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii
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 [email@example.com]:
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.
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 [firstname.lastname@example.org]:
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
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.)
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.
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
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
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.