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Daynotes Journal

Week of 26 July 1999

Sunday, 01 August 1999 09:48

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, 26 July 1999

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I got tired of the old tannish "parchment" background, and decided to substitute something else. Barbara says she likes it much better. Actually, my "old ways are the good ways" attitude inclines me to use a plain white background, but that's too glaring. That's why I started using the parchment in the first place. But this background cuts the glare and is I think more readable than the parchment.

Making that change was easy enough. I just renamed the old Image1.jpg to a backup name, and copied the new background image to the images folder. What's not easy is changing the color of the headings and so on. I picked the original brownish color as something that didn't clash with the parchment background. It looks a bit odd against this white background, so I traded it for a dark blue.

* * * * *

We built Barbara's new system, theodore, yesterday. Well, she built it. I mostly just watched and handed her screwdrivers. It's built around a PC Power & Cooling Personal Mid-Tower case with Silencer 275 ATX power supply. The Silencer is extremely quite, which will be useful because Barbara's office is right across the hall from the master bedroom. We used an Intel SR440BX "Sun River" motherboard, which has embedded nVIDIA RIVA TNT video and Creative ES1373 audio. We only needed two expansion cards. An Intel PRO/100+ Management Adapter to connect to the network, and an Adaptec 2930C SCSI host adapter. For drives, we used an ATA Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 10 GB hard drive, a Plextor 32X SCSI CD-ROM drive, and a Tecmar SCSI Travan NS20 tape drive.

We thought about which processor to use, and settled on an Intel Pentium III/450, which offers the most bang for the buck of any SSE CPU. We finished populating the system board by adding two Crucial 64MB PC133 DIMMs. There's just not enough price differential between PC100 and PC133 nowadays to make PC100 worth buying. I note that Pournelle is coming around to my way of thinking about memory. We've had a lot of back and forth about buying name brand versus generic memory. He tends to go down to Fry's and pick up their cheap generic PC100 (so-called) generic memory. I swear by Crucial, and won't put anything else in my systems. Pournelle just noted in View yesterday that he'd been having persistent problems with Winnie, his WinChip system. He replaced the no-name memory with Crucial, and the problems have gone away. He's rapidly becoming a convert to using Crucial.

The PC Power & Cooling Personal Mid-Tower case is a joy to work with. Just as you'd expect with a high-end case, everything fits together smoothly and without gaps. One of the nicest features sounds simple--everything lines up and there are screw holes where you need them. For example, the instructions say to install the floppy disk drive with 11/16" of overhang so that it will fit flush with the bezel when it is reinstalled. With many cases, it'd be a matter of trial and error to get that alignment exactly right. Not with the PC Power & Cooling case. There's a hole exactly where it needs to be to align the drives properly. This is a very nice case.

Here's a picture of theodore still sitting on the kitchen table, taken with the Olympus D-400 Zoom. We still need to add a muffin fan to draw air over that Pentium III/450, which has a Godzilla-sized heatsink, but no fan. Once that's done, we'll temporarily migrate theodore to my office, where we can configure it, install NT and applications, connect it to the network, and finally promote it to the PDC for the TTGNET domain. Incidentally, for those who thought I was kidding about the Kamikaze headband I wear while building systems, here it is...

theodore1web.jpg (41894 bytes)

* * * * *

This from Joshua D. Boyd []: 

Probably not many. Most people will "pay the man the two dollars." Many will resent the necessity, no doubt, but most will upgrade to Y2K-compliant MS operating systems and applications. There's just no realistic alternative for most people.

I have a lot of friends that love Corel Office and to my understanding they are pretty good about keeping up with the latest MS Office file formats. Further, people can use Claris Works, which has all the features that most people really need, for even less money. As far as operating systems go, your right, there aren't too many realistic choices other than Mac, which is equally bad in many ways to Windows 95. Mac OS X is reportedly good (I have a couple of professors that use it on G3 macs for their desktop machines at home, with iMacs, or such for the kids. But then, the same professors previously used NeXTStep or OpenStep at home), but it is also expensive.

While I think that linux would be fine for most office situations, I'm not delusional enough to think that in it's current state it is fine for most home users. The same goes double for the BSDs out there. The most realistic choices would be for people to pressure Apple into making Mac OS X cheap, or to pressure Corel into supporting Be. But then again, we both know how likely it is that users are going to want to pay the money to make that switch when it would be cheaper to just upgrade to Office 2k.

I agree that depending on bug fixes for a continuing revenue stream is despicable, but I don't think Microsoft is really guilty of that. They release service packs and patches pretty regularly, and don't charge for them. My problem with Microsoft has more to do with the emphasis they place on new features versus getting the existing features to work right. My only real problem with Microsoft from a "forced upgrade" point of view is file format incompatibility between older and newer versions. By using new file formats for the newer versions, they effectively force people to upgrade in lockstep. That said, it appears that with Office 2000 they've abandoned that practice. I understand that, with the exception of Access 2000, all Office 2000 file formats are backward and forward compatible between Office 97 and Office 2000. And they did have a good reason for upgrading the Access format.

Don't be to sure about that. Remember that the upgrade from Office 4.2 to Office 95 was the same way, all the file formats were the same, except for Access. Also, the upgrade from whatever version of office used Word 2.0 and Excel 4 to Office 4.2 (Word 6 and Excel 5) broke compatibility. It wouldn't surprise me at all if Office 2002, or whatever year the next version is breaks file compatibility again.


Joshua Boyd

Someone once observed that "politics is the art of the possible," and I think the same is true of software upgrades. Sure, people *could* abandon Windows for BEOS or Linux, or Office for Corel, but it just ain't gonna happen. Anyone who thinks it is is living in a dream world. Microsoft hasn't become dominant through any conspiracy or illegal doings. The simple fact is that Microsoft operating systems and applications are the best available. People who focus on the technical superiority of Linux ignore that fact that ordinary humans can't use it to get any work done. Those who sing the praises of BEOS ignore the fact that it lacks applications. And so on.

* * * * *

This from Neil Sherin []: 

I thought something was odd when a 4 year old OS starts picking up a 6 month old adapter without needing driver disks! Also, I had problems yesterday with partitions on disks that are larger than 8GB. Turns out upgrading to SP5 fixes the problem, then used Partition Magic 4 to enlarge the partition. Also had problems placing FAT partitions past 1024 cylinders, but upgrading from PM3 to PM4 solved this. For some odd reason I had PM3 on my PC and not 4. All seems to be working just fine now though.

Yes, that should have raised a red flag for me, too. And now, more weirdness. I actually got my test bed machine triple-booting Win98, WinNT4, and Windows 2000 Professional. Everything was working fine. Then I installed Adaptec Easy CD Creator on the Windows NT 4 system. Now, when I try to boot NT4, it simply loops. It gets to the first blue screen, the dots progress normally to the right, and then the system reboots itself over and over. Win98 and W2KP both still work fine. Very strange.

* * * * *

This from James A Roush []: 

I've been reading your daynotes since late last year. Like a lot of your readers I found your site through Pournelle's. I've come to have a lot of respect for your computer hardware and electrical skills, hence my plea for help.

I am building a Windows NT system using an Abit BP6 mainboard mounted in a SuperMicro 750-A chassis. This system is showing behavior that may or may not be power supply related. I have no idea -- I'm stumped.

When the chassis is plugged in I see all the fans spin up, the CPU cooling fans connected to the mainboard and the ones connected directly to the power supply. The fans stay on for a few seconds and then shut down. Also happening during this time frame, I see the power light on the CD-ROM drive come on briefly as you would expect when a PC is booted. I never do see the lite on the diskette drive come on.

Please understand, this happens when the computer is first plugged in. The power switch on the front of the case is never touched. After the fans turn off, pushing the power button makes no difference - there is no further activity until the power is unplugged from the wall and then plugged back in. It makes no difference if the wire from the power switch is connected to the power switch headers on the mainboard or not. How can this be on an ATX system?

If the power supply voltage is set to 220V instead of 115V could this cause this behavior?

Have you ever heard of these symptoms? Please suggest.

No, I've never seen these symptoms, but perhaps one of my readers has and can respond directly to you. I can think of several things that might cause the problem, but it's tough to say which is most likely:

Make sure that you have everything connected and jumpered properly. In particular, you should have a main power switch that's a momentary, normally-open switch, and connected to the motherboard power switch jumper, often by a blue-and-white cable. Shorting those two pins, either via the switch or by touching them momentarily with a screwdriver blade (make sure you touch the right pair!) should restart the system. If you have somehow contrived to short that pair to normally closed, that could account for the problem.

If that's not the problem, it may be that there's a problem with the power-good signal, either with the power supply or the motherboard.

It's also possible that you have a grounding problem. Is everything that should be grounded grounded, and everything that shouldn't be not? Some motherboards behave strangely if you use insulators between the mounting posts and the motherboard at points where the motherboard is supposed to be grounded.

I'm assuming that you're running the processor at nominal speed. If you're overclocking, that obviously could also cause many problems. If that's the case, back down the FSB setting to its normal setting. My readers may have other suggestions.





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Tuesday, 27 July 1999

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Barbara is now officially an author. Her first article has now been published, and is now here.

* * * * *

If you're going to build a dual-Celeron system, now is the time to get your CPUs. The packaging on current production Celerons has been altered to include the statement "FOR UNIPROCESSOR SYSTEMS ONLY". So far, it appears that the packaging is all that's changed. The CPUs themselves are still SMP-capable. But that may not last for long.

Intel uses something called an S-Spec to label processors. Each sub-model of a processor has its own S-Spec. Even "identical" models made in different fabs have different S-Specs, so for example a Celeron/300A made in one country has a different S-Spec from a Celeron/300A made in another country. Even the same processor using, for example, different cache chips, will have a unique S-Spec assigned. The same model packaged for OEM versus retail has different S-Specs. Intel also manufactures "Engineering Samples" that are not intended for distribution. Those processors have an S-Spec that ends in "ES". For example, the Pentium III/450 that we just used to build Barbara's new system has an S-Spec of Q817ES (and is labeled "Pentium II" which will probably make it a collectors' item).

The word is that the latest ES Celerons have pin AN15 disabled to prevent them from being used in dual-CPU configurations. I haven't verified this, simply because I don't have any ES Celerons, but the handwriting is on the wall. It appears that all current production Celerons are still usable in SMP systems, but that could change any time. I've seen various reports on the web saying that the current production PPGA (Socket 370) Celeron/366 CPUs are as overclockable as the 300A. If that's true, and I have no reason to think it's not, it appears that one could build a dual 550 system relatively cheaply. At least for now.

* * * * *

The Register reported yesterday that AltaVista has discontinued its keyword auction program, that nasty little cash-generating initiative that allowed people to bid for keywords. Whoever bid the highest for a keyword "owned" that keyword, and an AltaVista search for it put them at the top of the results. Ugh. Nothing like a search engine that you can't trust. At any rate, public outcry has apparently forced AltaVista to eliminate that program. Either that, or perhaps they found that not enough people were willing to pay enough to make it worthwhile.

* * * * *

This from Jerry Pournelle []:

Yesterday I replaced memory in two machines that had been acting funny. In both cases they have had no problems since. I replaced Toshiba memory PC-100 with Crucial PC-133 in one, and no-name PC-100 (running at 66) with Crucial PC-133 (overkill but what the hell) in the other. In both cases I have had no problems since, and with the Winchip machine my guess is that I would have had the problem by now. I'll do an acid test with Parsifal: it used to lock up sometimes with DVD movies played without a decoder. I'll try that and see if it is cured. 

But I am very much becoming a believer...

Yes, marginal memory causes more problems than most people will believe. That and marginal power supplies. The problem with both is that they "almost work." Worse than that, they actually do work--most of the time. Using a top-notch power supply like a PC Power & Cooling with marginal memory can prevent many problems, as can using top-notch memory like Crucial with a marginal power supply. But ideally you want both. Short of using a laboratory, it's difficult to show someone the differences. But they are there, nonetheless.

* * * * *

This from Chuck Waggoner [waggoner at gis dot net]:

Just reporting strange behavior. I have IE5 set to automatically download your page every day at 10:00am, and then I view it offline. The parchment is still showing as the background on my browser, even though I have synchronize options set to download images (but not ActiveX, Java, or Sound and Video; I also have it set to follow links only to HTML pages).

I'll do some experimenting over the next few days with those options to see if anything happens, and if none of that works, I'll hit refresh while online.

Just thought you might be interested.

That is odd. I'd guess that either IE is not recognizing that the file is new or that perhaps your ISP is caching on its servers. But it works fine for me.

* * * * *

This from James A Roush []: 

Regarding your suggestion about grounding problems, the motherboard sits directly on the mount posts. I did however put small paper like washers (I assume these are insulators) between the motherboard and the screw. Would that cause grounding problems?

As for overclocking, I have yet to gain access to the BIOS, so no I'm not, yet. The BP6 is a jumperless Motherboard BTW.

I'm not sure what you mean by the power switch reference. This systems starts up whether or not it the switch is connected to the headers on the motherboard. Are you suggesting the those to pins are touching each other?

Thanks for posting my email.

Those little reddish brown paper things are kind of a holdover from earlier days. Years ago, some motherboards had screw holes that weren't intended to be grounded. One used those white nylon posts for most of the holes, but the little red paper doughnuts allowed you to use brass posts instead. Nowadays, every motherboard I know of expects to be grounded at each screw hole location, on both the mounting posts and the top screw. That said, the multiple grounding points have more to do with limiting emissions and making the board more stable than with it not running at all. The board is always grounded, at least through the connection to the power supply.

Diagnosing a problem like this from afar is always difficult, but it sounds to me as though the power supply may be at fault. It sounds like the system is starting to come up, but the power supply isn't asserting power good (or not quickly enough). If that happens, the motherboard turns off the power. If you have another power supply available, I'd try swapping it in.

* * * * *

This from Robert Rudzki []: 

Yes, Fry's has good loss-leader prices in their twice weekly ads, but you have to know what you are doing to buy there successfully. Never trust what the floor sales people will tell you, many of them were flipping burgers last week and probably will be washing cars 3 weeks from now. I have walked by clueless customers drawn in by low prices trying to get more information from a clerk and the sheer nonsense they deliver with a straight face is appalling. I have been tempted to say something but that will just get you mobbed with other desperate people trying to make sense of they need to make something work... especially since it's their third trip back and it still doesn't work.

Fry's return policy is very generous, 30 days full refund, no hassles. The returned stuff then goes into big carts and is taken to the back room where the big shrink-wrap machine is busy and new labels are slapped on and back  out it goes on the shelf. The problem here is they don't check to see if all the right items were returned with the product nor will they check the bill of materials to verify. And I am sure the minimum wage guys in the back have no idea what commonly is included with a sound card say, the manual, the card itself, cables, a microphone whatever. The return product label is slightly different from new product and I take special pains to avoid returns and warn anyone who might be interested in cheap prices there of this.

Their line of PC cases and power supplies is particularly shoddy, what do you really get for your $19.95? Razor sharp edges, nothing lines up, and a really marginal power supply that barely delivers rated spec when you first turn it on let alone 6 hours later when it has warmed up. I will never again buy a case from these people, it's PC Power and Cooling from now on!

I saw Pournelle's Netscape headline on his Byte column this morning and groaned, knowing how much flame mail he was bound to get for it...

The only ones better would be if he had said 'Apple and Linux must die', their supporters tend to get a little emotional when you dare criticize their 'religion'.

I read the accounts of King Hassan II's death in the media, they sort of gloss over the two major mutinies he survived back in the early '70's one where an entire Air Force fighter squadron plotted to shoot down his 727, they hit it with 20mm cannon while he was at the controls and he radioed the attacking fighters pretending to be the flight engineer and telling them the King was killed and to spare the rest of the crew on the jet. The rebel pilots broke off the attack and RTB'ed, the King quickly landed, made some phone calls, and the entire squadron was executed for treason shortly afterward!

The other mutiny involved the staff at the military officer academy, they bravely incited the 1400 young cadets to storm the Royal Palace, about 100 were killed during the fighting and the entire staff and the rest of the cadets were also executed for treason. Not bad for a 'moderate' Arab leader! King Hussein of Jordan survived dozens of assassination attempts during his regime, the gallows in front of the Palace of Justice had new bodies hanging there nearly every week with signs around their necks regretting they had tried to kill the King... You rarely see pictures of that in the American press, they tend to be a little squeamish and it is hard to explain the word 'moderate' has a slightly different meaning in the Middle East than it does back in the US of A.

I have never been in a Fry's and have no plans to ever change that. I know that Pournelle shops there every week, but I don't feel comfortable with the place. To my way of thinking, when someone buys a product, takes it home, opens it, and then returns it, that product is no longer new. Fry's should not be re-shrinkwrapping it and selling it as new. Title has been transferred. It is no longer new. 

What they're doing is fraudulent, no different conceptually from a car dealer rolling back an odometer or selling a flood-damaged car as new. If they're going to sell returned items, at the very least they should clearly label them as returned. I'm told that they do that or used to do that via a pink sticker or something, but I've also been told that they're not very rigorous about enforcing that. I wouldn't build a system around a $19.95 Fry's case on a bet.

As far as Pournelle's column, I think he missed the point. He needn't chant "Netscape must die" because they're already dead. Their flagship product is now two years out of date. It was grossly inferior to Internet Explorer 4, and that much more so to IE5 (although I don't think much of IE, either). I keep Navigator on my system only to check my own web pages for appearance. I wouldn't even think of actually using it. The Browser Wars are long over, and IE won. As Svenson observed on his page the other day, Opera isn't much of an alternative, either. For better or worse, mostly worse, I'm stuck with IE.

I pay little attention to the Middle East, so I'll take your word for it...

* * * * *

This from Robert Rudzki []: 

I like your new background, the tan parchment was too busy.

I read your older day notes about Juan Rico in Starship Troopers being black, Pournelle thought Rico's mother was killed in Rio. I seem to recall she was in Buenos Aires when the bugs smeared the place in the book version I read. What I think Heinlein was trying to say that we can be from all sorts of places and skin colors it don't matter no how, we are judged by what we do, not what color or country we are from, but I may be wrong.

I thought Rico was a Puerto Rican when I first read the book in 1965 since the names were similar to the people we Polish kids fought and hated in the street gangs when I lived in Chicago from 1955 to 1963.

Pournelle told me I was wrong, and that Juan Rico's race was never explicitly mentioned. I'll believe him, although I still wonder. The last couple of times I read that book, I read an original 1957 paperback copy. It was titled "Starship Soldiers" rather than "Starship Troopers" and I wonder what changed besides the title. I made the mistake several years ago of lending that book to a friend, who either doesn't remember getting it or thinks he gave it back. So it's gone. In general, paperbacks are not collectible, but I think a first edition paperback with a different title might be an exception to that.





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Wednesday, 28 July 1999

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Very productive day yesterday. I'm working on the optical storage chapter right now, and in particular on CD-R(W). It's incredible to me how much misinformation, myths, and urban legends are floating around about CD-R(W). Probably more than any other single type of component out there. Trying to track down the real facts is time-consuming, difficult, and frustrating. But I'm doing it.

* * * * *

This from Dave Farquhar []: 

You asked this question yesterday, and I apologize if I'm the 47th person to say this, but having your power supply set on 220 or 230 instead of the 110 or 115 we use in the States can cause problems like you describe. I remember at a previous job getting a batch of 15 IBM PC 300s, and 14 of them worked. The last one wouldn't power on, no matter what I did. I had IBM send me a replacement power supply. The problem persisted, so IBM sent a tech on-site. He swapped out the motherboard, thinking the previous power supply had blown the board, but the system still didn't work. Then he happened to check the back, noticed the power supply was set on 230, switched it back, and the system started working. I felt pretty stupid, but IBM's tech reminded me that he didn't notice it either.

Over the years I probably set up 400 PCs from IBM, and that was the only one that ever had the power supply on the wrong setting from the factory.

As Bob said, a lot of things can cause that kind of behavior, but I'd start with that. It sounds power supply-related to me.

Dave Farquhar
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 employer.

I didn't even notice the reference to 115 versus 230 until I went back and re-read the original message. Thanks for the catch. Obviously, feeding a system half the voltage that it's configured to expect can result in a lot of problems, and I don't doubt that this is one of them.

Incidentally, the address '' bounces with a "User unknown" message, but I'll try one more time...

* * * * *

This from Fred Mora - Fmora( a t )**DIE, SPAMMERS, DIE!***, sent to Jerry Pournelle and copied to me:

Regarding Mr. Thompson's letter about writing CDs under Linux, he should have inquired in a newgroup, read a decent book or looked into a Linux application repository. I went to, typed "CDR" in the search window, and voilą, I found:

"CDR-Toaster (X11/CD Writing Software) - Tk frontend for cd-burning. Uses mkisofs and cdrecord"

Obviously, this is much better than typing the cdrecord command with all its parameter under a shell.

I hope it helps.

Also, a more general note: Please, Linux beginners, ask before you flame. Don't voice definitive, damning statements like "Linux won't make it as a client OS " before a quick Web search in the right places. Remember: If you have a problem that sounds pretty common, chances are smart people bumped into it before you and coded their way through it!

Your message actually confirms what I'm saying. Ordinary users--people who might use Linux as a client operating system--do not read newsgroups or install front-ends. Ordinary users simply want to be able to do what they need to do without spending a lot of time researching it. As it happens, I searched several search engines to locate information about burning CDs under Linux. The material I mentioned bubbled to the top or near the top on all of them. Any ordinary user might reasonably expect that that information was definitive and the best available. I certainly did. If there is better information available, it does little good if it is not readily available to users.

As far as Linux as a client operating system, in an hour one can teach someone who has had no exposure to Windows how to perform basic tasks. In a day, one can teach an intelligent person all he needs to know to use Windows reasonably effectively and efficiently. With Linux, even something as simple as formatting a floppy diskette or installing an application requires a great deal of knowledge about the operating system. Dr. Pournelle has spent hours fiddling with Linux with little effect. If he can't accomplish simple tasks after putting in that much effort, how much chance does an ordinary user have?

That is why I say that Linux will not make it as a client operating system, at least until it has a graphical shell that allows all the things normal users do to be done as easily under Linux as under Windows. That is not a flame, simply a statement of reality.

* * * * *

And this followup from Fred Mora:

Thanks for your answer. In a way, you're right, the problem here is information diffusion. On another hand, you can't burn CDs with Windows out of the box, you need to install an application. I think it's reasonable to expect Linux to also require an application to this end.

The real problem is that you'll find gobbles of Windows programs in the local Office Depot store, and no Linux program (although you start finding Linux application CDs in some stores, like "Sibex 101 Linux programs"). And you have to read Linux magazines to be aware of the fast-evolving Linux application offerings.

On the other hand, I have less trouble with most Beta level Linux apps than with your average Windows app.

I think it's more than just an information diffusion problem, although that's certainly one aspect of it. I think it's a critical mass problem. The critical mass for accomplishing something under Windows is much lower than it is under Linux. Windows is "learn a little, do a little. Learn a lot, do a little more." Linux, conversely, is "learn quite a bit, do nothing whatsoever. Learn a lot, do a hell of a lot."

Don't get me wrong. I *like* Linux. I think it is an excellent choice as a server operating system, although I might still choose FreeBSD for a web server. I also like the .600 Nitro Express cartridge. But handing Linux to a beginner or even to a "power user" is going to get exactly the same results as handing that non-expert the elephant gun. Lots of noise, no results, a very annoyed elephant, and a seriously upset user. Well, all except the annoyed elephant.

* * * * *

And this second followup from Fred Mora:

I think that's an excellent description. The critical knowledge mass image is a good one.

The problem of Linux is that it's too open, too configurable for beginners. However, a safe-install distribution like Mandrake or even Caldera solves most installation trouble and is actually faster to install than Windows 98.

As for day-to-day use, I agree that the current Linux windowing environments are still too complicated for beginers. I hope later versions of Gnome will solve that problem.

Me, I am very much happier on my Linux PC than on my Windows machines because of the stability and configurability of Linux. But then I took the time to RTFM. I'm the kind of perfectionist writer who went through half a dozen word processors before rejecting them all in favor of LaTeX because LaTeX is stable, configurable, bug-free and powerful. But it DOES require a manual. Most people expect the computer will magically solve their complex problems even when they don't want to take the time to learn how to explain their problems to the computer.

Actually, the best way so far for Linux to conquer the consumer market is through embedded applications, and it's doing that very well. Witness the number of "boxes" (set-top, MP3 car radios, etc.) embedding Linux these days. Of course, there is no flashy logo to advertize this fact, so consumers don't know they use Linux, they just don't care. 

--Fred Mora

I don't doubt that Linux will make it to the desktop, eventually. But I think that's at least a year (and probably two years) away. And what a lot of people ignore is that in the process of becoming a usable desktop operating system, Linux must by needs assume many of the characteristics of Windows. The Windows NT core is very stable, on the same order as that of Linux or UNIX. Most of the stability and compatibility problems that arise with Windows NT are a result of the GUI and of the random mix of applications and third-party drivers installed on it. As Linux strives to become an alternative to Windows on the desktop, it's going to accumulate a lot of that baggage as well. It'll be interesting to see what happens.

* * * * *

This from Neil Sherin [], referring to the problem I'm having with NT4 and Adaptec Easy CD Creator. NT4 SP5 worked fine until I installed Easy CD. Now it loop boots in an endless circle:

I am running that software on my dual box (NT Server 4 with SP5 and Option Pack) which is up and running. Have you tried patching it to 3.5c? That could be the problem. Go to: 

I got it to work under Win2KP Beta 3 when testing the Dual Celeron. For info on this, go to: 

Try and boot into the last known good configuration if patching to 3.5c fails - that fixed a BSOD bootup problem that I traced down to Dr. Solomon's AntiVirus Toolkit 7.96. I was able to boot up and uninstall the software. As I type, I am also doing a Win2K server install under VMWare with no speed loss, so things are looking up here. Just a matter of getting all my software installed.

Good luck and let me know how you get on.

I have 3.5C, but I've never gotten the chance to load it. I built the triple-boot box, installed NT4, video drivers, and SP5. I then attempted to install Easy CD Creator. As soon as I rebooted, it began the endless loop of continual reboots. I haven't had time to mess with it much. Fortunately, I was able to install Easy CD on the same system under Win98 and get it working well enough to copy CDs. Let us know how VMware works out. It sounds promising.

* * * * *

This from Edmund C. Hack []: 

A couple of random points:

For those of us outside Silicon Valley, Fry's is like Camelot. I visited one of their stores (the "Mayan temple" in/near San Jose), and was astounded at how much stuff there was. They seem to stock everything in all the computing catalogs and at pretty good prices. As far as their staff goes, they (and all the other chain retailers) have the same problem - retail doesn't pay enough to attract competent techies for long. As the joke goes: What's the difference between a used car salesman and a computer store salesman? A used car salesman knows he's lying. 

As to Juan Rico, he's very clearly from a wealthy Filipino family. At the end of the book he is looking at the long list of ships in orbit with a friend. He mentions that a ship should be named after Ramon Magsaysay (who was 7th president of the Philippines and a national hero) and mentions that at home they speak Tagalog, a language of the Philippines. Q.E.D. This is probably an artifact of Heinlein's naval service between the two World Wars which included a tour of the Pacific. Also, many of the ship's stewards in the US Navy were from the Philippines at that time. 

Edmund Hack \ "It's like Titanic - without the water!"
\"US Plus: We own the idea of America." - Firesign Theatre

Yes, I'm sure that anyone who reads this page would love to window shop at Frys. I sure wouldn't buy anything there, though.

As far as Juan Rico, I know that what you're saying is true--for the current version of the book. I think that what must have happened is that they printed a very few copies of this book under the title "Starship Soldiers" and then, along with the title change to "Starship Troopers" they made a small change to the text itself. Although I wouldn't swear it in court, I'm almost certain that in the early version I read, Juan Rico explicitly says near the end that he has black skin. I remember remarking it at the time because I thought how clever Mr. Heinlein was to work in his anti-racism message this way--give readers the entire book to learn to know and admire Johnny and then learn only very late in the book that he was black. I speculate that perhaps this was changed to a more ambiguous phrasing in later editions because the powers that be at the time thought that Mr. Heinlein's message might damage sales or something. God knows there was enough residual racism in the late 1950's that that certainly could have been true.

* * * * *

This from Rob Campbell []: 

I read your site daily, but mostly just lurk and enjoy. Thanks for all of your hard work.

Right at the end of Starship Troopers, Juan Rico mentions that his native tongue was Tagalog. That would likely make him Philipino, no?

- Rob Campbell

Yes, he was Philippino, and I recall the reference to Tagalog. But in the original version I red, I'd almost be willing to swear that Heinlein made explicit reference to his skin color. My memory may be playing tricks on me, but I don't think so. See my response to the preceding message from Edmund C. Hack. 

* * * * *

This from Joshua D. Boyd []: 

Netscape isn't entirely inferior. As much as I prefer IE when using windows, if you are using a 486, then you are pretty much forced to use netscape. Further, certain plugins (at least at my school) tend to be very unstable on IE(Cosmo Player being the main one). Also, IE on non windows platforms(Solaris and HP-UX) is awefull.

However, when IE is in it's element (IE a Pentium 2 running NT with lots of ram) I think that it is the most useable browser. I'm kinda split between how I feel about IE5. I like IE4s url completion much better than the IE5 system, but otherwise 5 seems much cleaner.

That said, Netscape does seem to be dieing. Frankly I wouldn't use their server software if it was given to me, and as you said, they haven't shipped a new browser in a long time. I don't think that Netscape has much hope even when Mozilla does pull through. Besides who would want to purchase Netscape when Mozilla can be downloaded in source or binary form for free?

Mozilla development is going slowly. Put it is finally starting to get to the point where they could make a stable release. I plan to try Mozilla as soon as I have time (a couple of weeks most likely). I don't think that the people running the Mozilla project are making all of the best choices though. I think that it would be best if Mozilla used gtk instead of motif. Motif is not free, nor is it as modern as GTK. I haven't had any trouble using gtk on non linux unixs (so far just Irix and Solaris).

However, if the Mozilla project ever completely falls apart, the source will still be out there, which means that those of us who know coding will still have a reasonable alternative.

As a side note, you might want to sometime look into a browser called neoplanet. I don't have a url for them. They write their browser for windows based on the Mozilla source code.


Joshua Boyd

Well, you may have a point. Perhaps I should have said "moribund" rather than "dead." But to all intents and purposes, a product that runs well comparatively only on obsolete hardware is certainly dying if not dead. Mozilla appears to me to be a classic case of too little and too late, although I hope I'm wrong about that. My guess is that if Mozilla shipped today with everything its designers intend to incorporate, it would only be about equal to IE5. By the time it actually ships, which may be months from now, if ever, IE6 will be out and Mozilla will be stillborn. I hope that doesn't happen, but I'm pretty sure it will.

I looked briefly at NeoPlanet on Tom Syroid's recommendation three months or so ago. I found at that time that it wasn't a browser, just a shell that required the underlying browser for its basic functionality. Has that changed? If not, I can't see why I'd want to run a shell on top of IE5.

* * * * *

This followup from Joshua D. Boyd []: 

I wasn't arguing that Mozilla was going to save Netscape, although if they are shrewd and quick, it is possible. To save Netscape, Mozilla would have to be faster, more intuitive, and completely compatible with IE plugins. However, the people who run Mozilla are also highly interested in cross platform usage, since they have millions of users on non Windows platforms (Most mac and unix people I know use netscape, even when IE is available). Unfortunately, IE plugins and cross platform code don't go so well together. Just witness how Netscape makes a mess when trying to use ActiveX controls in the current version.

But just because Mozilla isn't likely to save Netscape (which incidentally is no longer going to be called Netscape, but instead will have some unrememberable technobabble name), doesn't mean that Mozilla doesn't have the potential to shape up to be real competition to IE, even if it takes another 6+ months for them to release a stable version. See, generally linux users like their programs (which seem to be the majority of developers for Mozilla, although there are also a lot of Win32, Mac, and other unix developers) to run well on so called obsolete computers. And software that runs well on obsolete computers blazes on new machines. Speed is one of the major reasons why Mozilla hasn't been released as stable yet.

My understanding is that NeoPlanet now uses Mozilla code, rather than running as a shell to IE. However, I don't use windows on my home computer, and I can't install software at school, so currently I haven't had a chance to try it. Maybe it still is just a shell to IE.


Joshua Boyd

As I said, I'm cheering for Mozilla. I just don't think they're going to make it. If they get a usable product out the door, I'll certainly take a look at it. As far as NeoPlanet, you may be right. If that's the case, I'll certainly take another look.

* * * * *

This from Robert Rudzki []: 

I went back and read your daynotes to see what other issues you've addressed. In no particular rant order:

I had to smile when I saw your comment about Waffen-SS and Wehrmacht during the Balkans campaign thinking what my mother would have said. She was in the Uprising in Warsaw in 1944 shooting Nazis with a Sten gun after 5 years of Nazi occupation and reprisals. About this time the reprisal ratio was 1000 Poles executed for each German officer killed in ambush or blown up in a staff car. People in the Underground [she was in the AK, nationalist wing, as opposed to the AL the Communist-supported wing which frequently betrayed AK/AL joint operations to the Nazis in anticipation of the Red Army's arrival] had no illusions about the character and modus operandi of the SS or the Wehrmacht by this point.

As far as she and her fellow terrorists/freedom fighters were concerned the only honorable German soldier was one freshly hanged from a lampost or cut in half with a SMG burst. Regrettably, all the killing of Germans was for nothing, since Franklin Delano Rosenfeld refused to stand up to Stalin and so gave all of Eastern Europe away to a man who got his start robbing Tsarist government trains to finance Lenin and his gang of mass murderers into the 72 Year War. Anyone who had been in the AK had to flee for their lives since the Red Army feared [quite rightly!] they would have been a serious threat to Russian soldiers occupying Poland. Almost all AK people caught were tortured and killed as soon as they were identified, especially by AL former 'comrades'... 

Your comments about Chetnik atrocities reminded me that the Ottoman Empire was so impressed by the ingenious and sadistic tortures Albanians inflicted on their enemies that they used them in their own dungeons and as executioners.

The problem about the whole Balkans there are no good guys, everyone there has 'red hands' going back centuries. The tragedy of Tito is that he stepped in and took control before old scores were settled from the Nazi Croat and Ustachi against the Serbs and thus the time bomb ticked on for another 40 years before the lid came off in 1991. In every other instance of ex-Nazi occupied lands the scores were settled as soon as the last Kubelwagen carrying the last Feldwebel pulled away from the advancing Red or US Army.

It was obvious from Somalia onward Klinton had no clue about foreign policy and the role of the Pentagon, now with all the mixed signals coming from the Administration towards Taiwan and Red China, I fully expect the Mainland to invade Taiwan before Klinton leaves office since GW Bush as the next President would not stand for it. Just what we need, a major war in Asia between a former loyal ally and the most dangerous country on the planet. 

Naturally every male German of an age to have been a soldier in WW2 would always tell us [when we were in Germany in the mid '80's] that he only fought in Poland or the Eastern Front and had never even seen an American until after the War was over... =8^-)

I notice you had a lot of trouble with, are you still with them? Had you thought of setting up your own domain and being your own ISP? Then you could host other people's sites and sell banner ads! =8^-)

Your views on taxes and the proper size of the Federal government are similar to mine, I got to thinking what the Feds do for me:

1. Spend my taxes building a $5 billion 4.4 mile subway in Los Angeles?

2. Giving my local city council grants to do urban re-development for low income housing right next to a seedy liquor store half a mile from my house?

3. Spend billions to send yet one more piece of very expensive space junk into orbit so astronomers can have orgasms from the pretty pictures 10 billion years old that it sends back? [How many child inoculations and school lunches would the Hubble $3 billion price tag have bought?] And don't get me started on the Space Station and the Manned Mission to Mars!

4. Start yet one more open-ended commitment of US personnel to keep the peace among people who have been butchering each other for the last millennium? [Bosnia/Kosovo]

5. Fund the EPA so it can put poisons in my drinking water to make the air cleaner [MBTE and the jury is out on how well it works]

6. Force developers to spend millions to set aside land for only one of 27 sub-species of a rat [Steven's Kangaroo Rat] that hardly anyone had ever seen or heard of?

7. Creating and funding agencies such as the BATF and FBI HRT which kill people who just want to be left alone in Waco and Ruby Ridge? 

8. Empty out the state mental hospitals so all these crazy people can live on the street, eat garbage, sleep in public parks, use my front yard for a toilet, and push their junk around in stolen shopping carts?

9. Give grants to scientists who spend lots of time and your tax dollars determining that if you tease and frustrate a lab rhesus monkey long enough it will get angry and clench its fists and chatter angrily? I could have told them that for nothing!

My recent favorite: the US Navy announced it was going to trap and kill a rare native island fox that lives on [and is protected by the State of California] San Clemente Island since it has an appetite for some obscure bird that is even rarer and nests on the beach in the sand with no attempt at concealment! The Navy uses part of the island for gunnery and missile practice and is responsible for all of the rest in land conservation and rare species.

Now you're making me feel guilty. I barely have time to read all my mail, let alone respond in detail to such wide-ranging messages. But I'll post them, and hope that will be enough. I know what Pournelle means about starving to death while answering his mail. As far as, I've not had any significant technical problems with them. What happened was that they charged my credit card incorrectly and then took a month to issue a credit.

* * * * *

This from Robert Rudzki []: 

Bob, this is straight from Notepad pasted to Outlook 98 email: does this work or how do you prefer to get email with the least amount of massaging to get it on your daynote page?

[my comments are between "***" front and back.]

from previous daynotes of yours:

McDonell []:
In 1997, I recovered the XT and they complained. I gave the IBM to the county library; which had the good sense to throw it away. I kept that copy of Lotus 123 Ver 2.01 as a memento of the dark ages. I now use Version 5.

***Hah! I tried donating to our city library 3 486-DX4 machines with 16 meg of ram, <1 gig hd's and 14" monitors for use as Internet terminals since they have only one which normally has at least a 2-day waiting list. I got the old "our IT dept has certain standards for new machines and yours are so hopelessly outdated we can't possibly use them for the Internet but we will gladly take them for stand-alone uses..." and all 3 had 10BaseT cards as well! The massive irony here is using them as networked Internet terminals would have been ideal since it uses so little of a pc's capability to run as a browser proxy client... I gutted and part-ed them out instead. That was a year ago, we still have only ONE Internet terminal in the city library...!***
Anyone who has seen Stanley Kubrick's "Full Metal Jacket" will instantly recall the words shouted on Marine training-grounds: "This is my rifle. There are many others like it, but this one is mine..."

***My favorite line from that movie was, "No more boom-boom for this baby-san" after they whacked that VC babe that was trying to suck them into an ambush...***

Bob Thompson:
One unexpected consequence of Barbara and me both working at home is that Daylight Saving Time didn't "take." Before the change, we'd usually awaken around 7:00 to 7:30, take out the dogs, and begin our morning routine. With the change, everything still works the same, but we instead get started around 8:00 to 8:30. So the result is that I'm now running an hour later than I used to.

***And it is strange that most people today can't tell you why we switch time back and forth twice a year, the original reason was to conserve energy used to make electricity in the northern latitudes since pushing the sunset an hour further into the end of the day made the use of electric lights one hour less during the first and second great wars.

But the NHTSA says sleep-deprived drivers in April on the morning after [Monday!] the change-over causes 10-15% more accidents and collisions, multiply that out by all the drivers and cars affected and then think of the power we saved using cost-benefit analysis... I will do the math one day, but in the southern latitudes in North America it just ain't worth it!***

Yes, that's much easier for me to handle, thanks. 

Most of my mail comes in as plain text. I just do a Select All -- Copy and then paste into FrontPage. That's the easy part. Then, being a compulsive sort, I go through the message and get rid of the hard returns at the end of each line. That's not so bad, but finding line ends that are actually paragraph breaks is a pain in the butt. I could probably automate that whole process pretty easily, but I read the message as I'm doing it, so there's not much time lost. It's just aggravating.

When mail comes in as RTF or HTML, there aren't any hard returns that arbitrarily end lines. I do a Select All -- Copy, and then paste it into Notepad (to strip out everything but the text). I then do a Select All -- Copy and paste it into FP. That puts the text into FP with default formatting and nothing else. That saves me probably one minute on an average message, which is nothing to sneeze at.

As far as time zones, I've been lobbying Barbara for years to shift our household over to CUT (GMT), but she thinks I'm nuts.





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Thursday, 29 July 1999

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I'm a bit slow getting started this morning. I was helping Barbara with some stuff related to her business, and Duncan damaged a dew claw yesterday. We packed it with Neosporin and wrapped it, but we don't like the looks of it this morning. So Barbara's off to the vet with Duncan in a few minutes. That dog has more paw-related injuries than all the other dogs I've ever had put together.

* * * * *

Yesterday was consumed by locusts. The biggest locust was trying to deal with InterNIC/NSI to get Pournelle's domain changed over to pair. I despise NSI. The very idea of giving a private company government-granted monopoly power and then doing nothing to control their rates or service is despicable. What needs to happen is that NSI's authority to grant and maintain domain names should be revoked entirely. That authority should vest in a non-profit central registry that is co-operatively managed by the real registries. The central registry should not be registering domain names itself in competition with the real registries. It should just be a clearing house for co-ordination. Anyone who wants to set up a registry should be able to do so by assuming a per-capita share of registry costs, and should have an equal say in how the central registry is run. I hate NSI.

* * * * *

FrontPage isn't too smart about email addresses. When it finds an email address or URL in the text, it leaves it alone unless I put a space or a return immediately following it. The trouble is, it correctly leaves off the final square bracket, but includes the first square bracket as a part of the address. In the past, I've been manually fixing that, but it just struck me yesterday that I should go ahead and leave the extra character. That way, if one of those damned email grabbers parses my site, it'll end up with a bunch of useless addresses. Obviously, there will still be a lot of usable addresses, not just from my previous pages, but from those embedded in the text or in sigs. But it's a start at least. The downside is that if you want to send email to someone by clicking on the link, you'll have to manually get rid of the extra bracket.

* * * * *

This from James A Roush []: 

Sorry about the email address snafu. I configured Outlook wrong for my new DSL account. The correct address is 

Haven't been able till later today to attack the computer problem. First I'll unhook all wires except the PSU then attach the reset switch to the power switch header on the MOBO. This will verify whether or not the power switch is at fault.

If that doesn't work, the MOBO will came out of the case and get hooked test bench fashion. That will verify any grounding/shorting problem between MOBO and case.

BTW, I finally get what you were saying about the momentary switch business. Someone emailed me that he the EXACT same problem. It was the wrong type of power switch. He proved it by using the reset switch for power up. More when I know more.

James A Roush

Okay, let us know what happens. Incidentally, in a conversation with Jerry Pournelle some months ago, I came across something else worth noting. When I build systems, I always install memory, a processor, and disks before powering them up. I've done it that way since the first system I built. Often, I use old scratch components just in case something shorts, but the system has a full complement of components before I apply power. 

Jerry mentioned that he was having problems building a system, which was acting a lot like yours. During the conversation, I said something like, "well, why don't you pull the CPU and try a different one." His response was, "what CPU?" From there, we stopped talking at cross-purposes, and I learned that Jerry was in the habit of firing up a new system for the first time without having installed CPU, memory, etc. Once he put some stuff in the system, it powered up fine. I'd never even considered testing a system without stuff in it, so it goes to show you that different people do things different ways. But although Jerry's way worked fine with AT systems, it doesn't work at all with ATX systems. Or so he tells me.

* * * * *

This from Stephen Warren []: 

Bob, I did not notice a difference in the title, but like you I recall an explicit reference to Juan Rico's black face. As I recall, he remarked on his reflection in the monument as he read the names. I didn't own the first copy I read and all others I have seen were, as you say, ambiguous. I agree with your speculation as to motives for the change. I am always baffled by racism, but my parents would have been quite annoyed if one of their authors had been as clever as Mr. Heinlein. 

I enjoy your Daynotes Journal and appreciate your patience and fine work. Please keep it up.

Thanks for the kind words. I had a long chat with Jerry Pournelle yesterday. He, of course, knew Mr. Heinlein well from the early 1960's until Mr. Heinlein's death. Jerry tells me emphatically that I'm wrong, both about the book ever being printed as "Starship Soldiers" and about Mr. Heinlein ever making it explicit that Juan Rico was black. I'd believe him, except for one thing: I *remember* having that book, and Barbara remembers me having it, too. We talked about it at the time. My first thought was that the paperback was a foreign edition, because such editions are often published under different titles. But I checked, and it wasn't foreign.

I have done some searching, and I can't find any reference to that book or that title anywhere. The book "Starship Troopers" was excerpted as a magazine serial under the title "Starship Soldier" (note the singular), but nowhere can I find a real reference to a book named "Starship Soldiers". I'm beginning to believe that what I had my hands on was a rarity on the order of the 1913 Liberty nickel. Perhaps a short initial run was done, errors were found, and that run was destroyed except for one or a few copies. I don't know. I just know that I had that book and that it is listed nowhere.

* * * * *

This from Paul S R Chisholm []: 

(Not definitive, but persuasive. The FAQ, or this copy anyway, hasn't been updated to reference the film titled STARSHIP TROOPERS. --PSRC) 

1. What is Juan Rico's race in _Starship Troopers_?

At the end of the book, Rico makes reference to [Ramon] Magsaysay, a great Filipino hero, and mentions that his family's native tongue is Tagalog (the principal language of the Phillipines). Many Filipinos have Spanish names. Q.E.D. Rico is Filipino. (References are often made to a Samuel Delany essay in which Rico is mentioned as being black. Rico is not black.)

Yes, you are doubtless correct about the book _Starship Troopers_. But what I'm referring to is the book _Starship Soldiers_. I speculate that they did an early run of the book under that second title and subsequently destroyed nearly all of that print run. I think the book I had was an "accidental". There's no reference to that title anywhere in any Heinlein bibliography, but I know what I had. Barbara saw it, too, so I know it's not my imagination. I also speculate that some minor changes to the text were made during the changeover to the new title. But I doubt we'll ever know for sure what happened.

* * * * *

This from

After going and finding the The Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy October and November 1959 at the KU research library ( a sfwa respository library... with an amazing pulp collection.) in the serialized first publication, Rico's race is _not_ mentioned and the Tagalog is. Sorry. :-( I don't find a publication with that title in a paperback, there are 1959 first paper's listed in with the troopers title, along with first hardcovers... I'm really starting to wonder just what you had?

Yes, I'm beginning to wonder too. When I talked to Pournelle yesterday, I mentioned that the book I had had a 1957 or 1958 date on it. He said that was way too early. I think what I had was a copy of an abortive early printing that was mostly destroyed and was never officially released.

* * * * *

This from Robert Rudzki []: 

Sorry about the verbal diarrhea, I have class only twice per week and am on an extended 'sabbatical' much of what you write about interests me and obviously I have too much time on my hands...

I'll try to tone it down, no need to respond or post if it interferes with your work or leisure time.

One of the lab aids mentioned one of the Windows NY Server instructors needs a another lab aid at my school and since it is the summer session and there are no funds for anything until the fall semester starts, I need the experience anyway...


PS: You could move to Arizona instead of Vermont they permit open carry of handguns and the humidity is 'slightly' less then that steam-bath you call a state, and they never change their time zone... I seem to remember it was an Arizona sheriff who first sued the Feds over Brady Bill requirements and won!

Don't get me wrong. I love hearing from you and my other readers. It's just that I feel guilty because I can barely afford the time to jot down a sentence or two in response to many messages. I've always felt that parity was proper. If someone writes me a long message, I should respond in kind. But I just don't have time. I get anything from 50 to 100 email messages a day, and sometimes twice that. If I responded in kind to all of them, I'd have time to do nothing else.

As far as Vermont, it's more than just the gun laws that I like about it. It's the fact that they regard government as intrusive and something that should be absolutely minimized. It shows in all aspects of the way they do things there.

* * * * *

This from Werth, Timothy []: 

Here is a review done by PC Mag on some new digital cameras. The highest resolution looks like 1,600 x 1,200 except for the Ricoh RDC-5000 which does 1,792 x 1,200 and also got the editors choice. Looks like they are steadily approaching the quality of a 35mm camera. Thought you would find this interesting.

They're getting there, but there's still a long way to go. I sat down some years ago to figure out just how much data a 35mm Kodachrome slide contained. I think the number I came up with was 2.7 GB. In order to match 35mm Kodachrome, a digital camera would have to resolve something like 20,000 X 30,000 pixels (a 600 megapixel camera versus the current consumer grade 2 megapixel cameras), and would have to record 36-bit color instead of 8 BPP. That's a big difference, but I suspect we'll see sub-$1000 "Kodachrome-quality" consumer-grade digital cameras in five years or less.

* * * * *

This from Fred Mora - Fmora( a t )**DIE, SPAMMERS, DIE!***

I agree that Linux will have to accumulate some cruft in order to become drool-proof. However, it's in much better condition than NT to start with. You can write graphic applications for helping novice users without touching the Linux kernel. Under NT, any GUI intervention means hacking the heart of the OS.

Also, I don't think that the Windows NT kernel is so stable. Case in point: 3 weeks ago, I changed my NT station's IP address to satisfy a new network policy. I rebooted (why can't you restart TCP/IP?) and the system BSODed me at boot. I couldn't pass the boot phase. It turned out that the IP address change using the NT "network->TCP/IP->Property" dialog had corrupted a config file: It had a double IP address statement, instead of an updated address. Why? Anyway, the kernel wasn't so stable, since it crashed on this. 

Compare and contrast with an improper sound driver definition I had on my Linux box. The boot log gave me some warnings and the kernel disabled the sound. That's it. A simple runtime command (sndconfig) fixed the problem, without a reboot. No crash, no scream, no wasted time. Now THAT's stability. 

STABLE for a kernel means that it should be immune to adverse external influences such as heavy load, resource shortage or erroneous input. The NT kernel does not qualify on any of these counts.

Well, you kind of picked on an aspect of NT that's been criticized before. When Microsoft upgraded NT 3.51 to NT 4, they move some graphics functions to kernel mode because they wanted faster performance than they were getting in user mode. As many people observed at the time, that made sense for Workstation, but not for Server. But since Workstation and Server are essentially the same product, they had no alternative but to make it the same for both.





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Friday, 30 July 1999

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Thirteen dead in Atlanta in another shooting spree. There will, no doubt, be more calls from logic-impaired people for tighter gun control laws as a result of this shooting. The point these morons seem to miss is that someone who is going to go postal isn't going to be inconvenienced by any gun control law. All those laws accomplish is to disarm the citizenry. Once again, had one of the men had a pistol under his coat, or had one of the women a pistol in her purse, things might have turned out very differently. We will always have wolves among us. All that gun control laws do is turn the rest of us into sheep.

Although the ultimate responsibility for such outrages obviously rests with the person who does the shooting, our legislators are also responsible in no small part. By passing laws that effectively ensure that ordinary citizens will be unarmed, all that they've accomplished is to turn us into prey for such people. The police can't stop such incidents, as should be clear to anyone with any sense. All the police can do is show up, too late, and clean up the mess.

Of course, the real point is that the government wants a populace of sheep. An armed citizenry scares the government. They're too hard to push around. And they might push back.

* * * * *

This quote, allegedly from Bill Gates:

"The one thing Apple's providing now is leadership in colors. It won't take long for us to catch up with that, I don't think."

Which pretty much sums up the pathetic little iMac and iBook. Apple, and Jobs in particular, have always been arrogant and clueless, and these latest products are evidence of that. I often disagree with Dvorak, but his PC Magazine on-line column this week really nails it. Who would buy a notebook that looks like a fashion accessory for a child's doll?

* * * * *

This from Chuck Waggoner []: 

Any chance we readers could persuade you to mention in the Daynotes page that you've updated Topics? That would save us from checking Topics on days that it's not necessary. Thanks!

--Chuck Waggoner [waggoner at gis dot net]

I try to remember to mention it, and I usually do, but I have so many balls in the air that sometimes things slip through the cracks. I'll try to remember in future.

* * * * *

This small gif from Dave Farquhar []:

I thought you'd appreciate this...

Now if only you'd sent me the secret keystroke combination needed to access this secret dialog.

* * * * *

This from Robert Rudzki []: 

It is obvious RAH is teasing us as what or where Rico is really from, yes, speaking Tagalog nails him down as from the Philippines since that language is native to the islands and not spoken elsewhere except by expatriates. Yet his mom is visiting relatives in Buenos Aires when the invading bugs from outer space destroy the city?

Now as to what 'black' means is a little more complicated. There was a fair amount of racial mixing in the islands what with the Spanish, slaves, indigenous peoples such as the Negritoes [a race of small but very fearsome fighters and trackers as the US Army in 1901-1913 and the Imperial Japanese Army learned to their peril.]

The Negritoes are very dark skinned as are some of the racial mixes descended from African slaves, so culturally Rico could be rich upper class Philippine yet have a very dark skin and possible Negroid features [can you still use that word in these PC times?] Brazil also has a very wide range of colors and hair textures due to the Portuguese colonists who went 'native' quite enthusiastically. From what i hear there is no color or race prejudice there except towards the tribes deep in the jungle when the settlers want their land or mineral rights.

I once worked with a woman from the Virgin Islands who looked 'black' but was very offended by that label, since she thought of herself as an American from the islands and in fact would not associate with other black people we worked with who were born in the US of A. They in turn thought she was weird for her views...

About your search for 'Starship Soldiers' can you find RAH's publishers in paperback, there may be someone still there who might remember it or perhaps find some info in old corporate files? It is mystifying that there is no record of such a book whatsoever, and the chances of both you AND Barbara remembering a non-existent book are slim and none. you have probably already found this link since you mention something about a magazine edition but i got only 2 hits in Altavista on "Starship Soldiers" that's all she wrote...

I suppose I could find out who was publishing Heinlein in paperback in the late 1950's and then attempt to find someone there who might remember, but I really don't have time to do that. I talked to my friend who borrowed the book yesterday. He says he's almost certain he returned it. He may have, but if so I sure don't remember. So it's possible he has it somewhere or I have it somewhere. He'll be moving in a couple of months, and says he'll search everything at that point, so perhaps it'll turn up.

* * * * *

Late Afternoon: Oh, great. We finally get Pournelle's web site moved over to pair Networks and DNS queries getting the new IP address, and now Pittsburgh has lost power...


[Jul 29, 1999, 5:20 am] Power Emergency

As a result of two lines of severe thunderstorms moving through the area, Pittsburgh is currently facing a power emergency. Around 2am Eastern time this morning, during the second round of thunderstorms, commercial three phase power to our facility was knocked out of service. We are presently running on generator power alone. 

Although our facility can theoretically operate on generator power indefinitely, it is possible, although unlikely, that we will face a further emergency such as a generator failure under load, or an inability to refuel repeatedly during an emergency that affects hundreds of thousands of power customers (thus increasing demand for diesel services). If such an emergency occurs, we will be forced to follow load-shedding protocols, taking our routers and services offline in anticipation of a complete power loss. 
We are working to avoid that relatively unlikely scenario, but would like for our customers to be aware of the problem. Under these emergency conditions, it is possible that our service will not be restored for several days. We are working diligently to ensure that the generator remains online so that no customer is affected. Further information will be posted as it becomes available. 

I don't see any updated information, so I'm assuming they're still running on generators. So, this site and Pournelle's may go down (not to mention Tom's Hardware and several thousand others...), although they say that's unlikely.

If this site fails to respond, that means my email is dead, too. If you urgently need to contact me, you can send mail to me at: thompsrbatbellsouthdotnet. That's an emergency only box, which will actually end up in my wife's mailbox, so please don't use it except in an emergency.





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Saturday, 31 July 1999

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Well, the sleazy folks at are at it again. I'd hoped they'd learned their lesson some months back when they attempted to sell their recommendations. That got slapped down fast by a storm of public protest. This time, they've done something much less high-profile, but just as sleazy in my opinion.

Their associates program pays a small commission on books sold by an associate. Here's the relevant text from the message they sent 4/30/99, covering the period through 3/31/99 (note that they give themselves a month's grace to pay you what they've owed you for as much as 90 days by the 3/31 date, let alone 4/30).

If you earned less than $10 in referral fees through the prior quarter (which ended 3 months ago), you would not have received a check at that time. In that case, you will see the unpaid amount included in the report below and added into this quarter's payment.

And here's what the message I received today says: 

While our Operating Agreement stipulates that we won't send payments smaller than $100.00, we're actually sending payments to all Associates whose prior balances plus quarterly referral fees earned were just $25.00 or more during the past quarter.

The last time I looked, it said $10. So, they've unilaterally and without notice changed the terms of their agreement with their associates. But from the goodness of their hearts, they're only bumping the minimum by 2.5 times this quarter instead of the 10 times that they think I agreed to. I've mailed them a nastygram, telling them to remove my name as an associate and immediately send me the amount due me. What a bunch of crooks.

And stupid crooks, too. Their associates program has had a lot to do with their success, and I hope enough of their associates are smart enough to write them off. I don't have time to find all the Amazon links on my site and remove them, but please do not buy from Once was bad enough. As far as I'm concerned, they've now shown they have the ethics of a politician. No, that's not fair to politicians. 

* * * * *

This from Bo Leuf [], which he also copied to Jerry Pournelle:

Interesting, this ongoing disagreement about the existence of a "Starship Soldiers" book. Things like this are so hard to track down. Especially if we do have a successful revision of history on the part of the publisher. Or if as you suggest you might have somehow at the time got hold of a recalled limited print run.

The venerable Tuck's Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (I have the 74 edition) had this to say about Starship Troopers. It gave the original title as "Starship Soldier" (singular form) serialized in two parts in F&SF Oct-Nov 1959 (vol 17 numbers 4 and 5) , enlarged to 309 pp for the Putnam 1959 book edition (officially the first book version). Unfortunately, it does not specify when the title change occurred.

Other sources however consistently give "Starship Troopers" as the only title for the Putnam 1959 edition. And of course there are cover shots at e.g.

Have you ever considered that perhaps somewhere along the road, like me, you crossed over into a neighboring timeline? I mean, there are some pretty damn weird things said these days that don't really jibe with the past I know/knew/thought-I-knew :)

/ Bo


"Bo Leuf" <>
Leuf fc3 Consultancy

* * * * *

To which Pournelle adds: 

More to the point: my memory at least doesn't work too well. I recall the F&SF serial version, and now I think on it, I met Robert at the Seattle worldcon where he got the Hugo for Starship Trooper. There couldn't possibly have been a paperback version prior to the Putnam hardback unless it was a pirated copy from somewhere. That is possible, but pirates can also change text.

I'll defer to both of you, although I know what I saw, and it was a paperback with the title Starship Soldiers. The guy who borrowed it from me also remembers the different title, although he's sure he returned it to me. Perhaps he did. It may indeed have been a pirate edition, or perhaps it was an early short run that the publisher destroyed and re-titled before it was officially released. I don't know. Nor am I 100% certain that the date was 1957 or 1958, although I'm certain it wasn't as late as 1960. I am 99% certain that it was a US edition, because my first thought when I saw it was that it was British, since titles and cover art often differ for foreign editions. So far, one reader has mailed me to say that he also remembers the explicit reference to Juan's skin color. Obviously, that's not proof. We could both be mis-remembering.

* * * * *

To which Pournelle adds: 

Certainly the Putnam edition was the first edition, so it was not possible that there was an earlier paper one. There MIGHT have been some kind of bound galley sent out for publicity purposes, and that might have looked like a quality paperback and had the F&SF title; but this is very unlikely. Sending out bound galleys of SF books for review was rare until Lucifer's Hammer hit the best seller list for 15 weeks, and it began to look as if science fiction could have some legs.

In the 50's and 60's SF books as books were rare to begin with, and Heinlein was one of the few who regularly got them.

As to explicit references to Rico being black, I just find it unlikely in many ways. It was daring enough for him to be Philippine.

* * * * *

This from Paul Robichaux []: 

Is Jobs arrogant? Yep. Is he clueless? Nope. Was he right about the iMac? I'd say so. Apple has sold more than a million of 'em since introduction last year; that machine single-handedly lifted Apple back to profitability _and_ out of the fetid swamp of "Apple is DOOMED" articles in the trade press. Their 3QFY99 sales are up 40% over last year's, largely powered by the iMac.

Is the iMac a perfect machine? No. Does it strongly appeal to people? Yes. Two cases in point: my aunt, who got one for Christmas, and my kids' pediatrician, who has and uses a range of other Windows & Mac boxes. Both wanted a simple, self-contained, easy-to-use unit-- just what the iMac is. Neither had any interest in beige boxes. Sure, it's not much horsepower compared to boxes like the ones you and I use, but it's not designed to be.

Calling the iBook "girly" a) implies that Real Men Use Beige Computers and b) misses the point. It will sell well because it's an attractively priced, attractively packaged unit that offers some great capabilities-- especially the AirPort wireless networking stuff. 11Mbps, no wires, $99-- that's a HUGE improvement over the 2Mbps 802.11 cards you can buy now for $400 or so.

I'll make a bet with you: I'll bet that the iBook sells exceptionally well-- say, more than 500,00 units-- in the next twelve months. The stakes: a 3-liter bottle of diet Coke. Deal? 




Paul Robichaux, MCSE | | <
Robichaux & Associates: programming, writing, teaching, consulting

So he's sold a million machines in a year. I haven't checked overall unit sales lately, but I'd guess that PCs are selling at perhaps 50 million units per year. If so, that puts him at 2% market share, which will probably decrease rapidly as people realize that, as usual, they have to pay two or three times as much for the "Apple experience" as what superior PC hardware would cost them. I say that Jobs is clueless, which I still maintain, because he's never understood market share. He's doomed Apple to being a niche player. 

If he were smart, he'd realize that Apple isn't in the hardware business anyway. Instead, he insists on selling over-priced, under-performing, shoddily-built hardware to people foolish enough to buy it. Apple is, or should be, in the operating system business. Although Apple's OS is certainly primitive in many respects relative to Windows NT (or even Windows 98), he should have ported the Apple OS to Intel long ago and let the proprietary Apple hardware platform die a long overdue death. Their are enough people who would buy the Apple OS for its perceived "newbie-friendliness" that he'd have ended up making far more money for his stockholders.

As far as the iBook, I don't consider 50,000 units to be a success. More a dismal failure. If you meant 500,000 units, that would be better, but still a drop in the bucket. And $99 for 11 Mbps may seem good to you, but I prefer to run wired 100 Mpbs. You can get those cards for $25 to $40 each.

I wouldn't drink Diet Coke on a bet, literally, but if you want to make that Coke Classic for me, you're on.

* * * * *

This followup from Paul Robichaux []: I've embedded my own comments in blue.

So he's sold a million machines in a year. I haven't checked overall unit sales lately, but I'd guess that PCs are selling at perhaps 50 million units per year. If so, that puts him at 2% market share, which will probably decrease rapidly as people realize that, as usual, they have to pay two or three times as much for the "Apple experience" as what superior PC hardware would cost them. I say that Jobs is clueless, which I still maintain, because he's never understood market share. He's doomed Apple to being a niche player. 

Maybe, but if you look at Honda's overall share of the US auto market it's, what, 8%? Sony has a 9% share of US consumer electronics. While it's only monthly, I think the PC Data (<>)sales figures are interesting:

PC Data retail sales figures for June showed Apple in third place, behind Compaq and HP, with an 11.2-percent market share, "despite an average price $500 higher than the average Wintel PC." The research company listed IBM in fourth place with 9.9 percent market share followed by E-Machines with 9.7 percent. "The best-selling item in June was the five-flavor combination of the iMac 333Mhz version, selling for an average price of $1,160.

This is almost twice the price of the top-selling Compaq and HP units, yet it was still the best-selling CPU.

Well, don't forget that Hondas use Ford-compatible gasoline and roads, and Sonys use Edison-compatible electricity. And those market share numbers are questionable to say the least. What about those minor players Dell and Gateway? Note that those "market share" numbers they're talking about are retail, which disregards the huge numbers of PCs sold direct by Dell, Gateway, and many others, as well as those sold into corporations by IBM, HP, etc. In fact, Apple's market share is probably not even 3% overall, and that's just not enough to be viable.

Although Apple's OS is certainly primitive in many respects relative to Windows NT (or even Windows 98), he should have ported the Apple OS to Intel long ago and let the proprietary Apple hardware platform die a long overdue death. Their are enough people who would buy the Apple OS for its perceived "newbie-friendliness" that he'd have ended up making far more money for his stockholders.

Well, there's a reason I use the Mac OS for writing, and it's not because I'm a newbie. You should well understand (after your nth "I hate Microsoft because" rant) that there is a qualitative difference in the user experience. You can make fun of it if you like, but consider who shipped:

+ the first mass-market laser printer

Xerox 2700? If not, depending on how you define "mass market", I'd say the HP LaserJet.

+ the first plug-and-play network

Digital Equipment Corporation?

+ the first machine with onboard FireWire


+ the first mass-market machines with SCSI


I could go on, but I think you get the point.

I certainly was not including you in the "newbie" category, as I assumed you would understand without me saying it. If you didn't, I apologize for the insult. But you're certainly not the typical Apple user. 

As far as the iBook, I don't consider 50,000 units to be a success. More a dismal failure. If you meant 500,000 units, that would be better, but still a drop in the bucket. And $99 for 11 Mbps may seem good to you, but I prefer to run wired 100 Mpbs. You can get those cards for $25 to $40 each.

Well, I consider the utility of being able to park an iBook anywhere in my house and use it (including on the back deck) without trailing a kid-attracting 100Base-T cable pretty high. More so for schools and other shared environments where wires are undesirable.

Perhaps, if it works. My experience with wireless networking has not been good.

I wouldn't drink Diet Coke on a bet, literally, but if you want to make that Coke Classic for me, you're on. 

Sorry; I forgot you take your Coke straight. It's a deal: more than 500,000 units sold by Sept 2000 (one year from the ship date) and I win; less than that and you win.

Okay, I thought we were talking about July, 2000, but I'll give you September. What happens if it doesn't ship by then?



Paul Robichaux, MCSE | | <>
Robichaux & Associates: programming, writing, teaching, consulting

* * * * *

This from Thierry Wautelet []: 

Once again, had one of the men had a pistol under his coat, or had one of the women a pistol in her purse, things > might have turned out very differently.

Trouble is, the average untrained people are unable to use a gun is an effective manner, even trained police officer rarely use it in a effective way in a stressful situation, that is without making innocent victims. Like most male in my country I spend a few month for military duty, enough to learn that guns are dangerous.

"The one thing Apple's providing now is leadership in colors. It won't take long for us to catch up with that, I don't think." B.G.

Sure, so why didn't they do it in the first place ?

Still looking after USB support under NT, most peripherals are supported with my 4 years old Mac but drivers are nowhere to be seen under NT. Apple is still leading the way and MacOS the best personal OS for creative work, cheap WINTEL PC being used as modern typewriter replacement.

Have a nice weekend without gun fighting :-)

The average armed criminal never practices. The average cop qualifies once or twice a year by firing a box or two of ammunition at well-lit targets on a range. The average civilian who chooses to carry a pistol practices frequently and under more realistic conditions, until he is comfortable with his pistol and able to hit what he is aiming at. Statistically, in shoot-outs, goblins almost always miss, cops frequently miss, and civilians usually put down what they're aiming at. And once you've learned, it's much like riding a bicycle. I used to put 500 to 1,000 rounds a week through heavy caliber handguns, and compete frequently in combat pistol competitions. Nowadays, I seldom shoot, but I guarantee that if I needed to I would hit what I was aiming at. Most civilians who choose to go armed are similarly likely to hit their targets.

As far as the Gates quote, I think you missed the point. He was saying that Apple leads in nothing worth doing. As far as using Apple, you are of course entitled to your opinion, but it is one that is shared by less than 5% of computer users.





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Sunday, 1 August 1999

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We're staying in today. The heat has been incredible for the last several days. Yesterday, it was still 96F (35.5C) at 9:00 p.m., with a heat index of 105F (40.5C). Today, the forecast is for actual temperatures of 100F to 105F (38C to 40.5C) with heat indices of 110F+ (43.5C). I hope the air conditioning and utility power don't fail. It's times like this when I really want to move to Vermont.

Barbara's cleaning house while I do laundry and web maintenance. I picked up a supplementary case fan for her new system at Computer & Software Outlet earlier this week. Then I found that I didn't have any machine screws that would fit. I needed a 1.25" (3.2 cm) #8. The closest I had were 1.25" #10's, which won't fit the mounting holes in the fan, and 1" #8's, which fit but aren't long enough. I also had a few 2.5" #8's, but those looked ridiculous.

What's worse is that this selection of machine screws and bolts I have was bought on sale at HQ many years ago, and they all seem to be SAE grade minus 3 or so. You can literally twist the heads off them with a nutdriver. They must be made of pot metal or something. So we went off yesterday in search of some decent grade machine screws.

Fortunately, there are still some independent hardware stores left around here. I hate going to Home Depot or Lowes. Their idea of a hardware selection is grossly overpriced tiny little blister packs of junk screws and bolts. What I wanted was SAE grade 2 or grade 5 fasteners in bulk 100 packs in cardboard boxes. We found them at Lewisville hardware. A pack of 100 1.25" #8 SAE 2 machine screws was $2.99 (versus probably $16.99 at Home Depot or Lowes), with 100 nuts at $1.53 and 100 split washers at $1.19. They even had a lot of stuff in SAE grade 5 and grade 8.

I didn't think about it until it was too late, or I'd have headed for W. W. Grainger, which has a location not more than ten minutes from here. They carry only first-rate hardware at reasonable prices, or did the last time I bought there, which has been quite a while. The only downside to Grainger is that they won't sell to individuals. You have to have a company if you want to buy there. I have a company, so it's no problem.

Well, I'd better get Barbara's new system finished and start installing software on it.

* * * * *

This from

I agree with your memo about the Pentax, 100%. My father recently died, and I remember the day in November, 1963 that he took me to the camera store to buy me my first "real" 35mm camera. It was a Pentax H1a, with no light meter, and an f2 lens. Later I added the clip on light meter for $32.50. It was a wonderful camera that I sold (regretfully) a few years later when I got a Nikon. The other day, I became sentimental and went looking for a Pentax H1a. I found a Spotmatic body, and I bought it. I went looking for lenses (screw mount), and I was amazed at how inexpensive they are. For $25 - $50 you can get Takumar & Vivitar telephoto & zoom lenses that sold for hundreds of dollars 30 years ago. Wow, is this great! Anyhow, you're right, the old screw mount Pentax camera is something really special. Have fun. I am. I just shot a beautiful roll of film from my son's baseball game today, using the telephoto.

Yes. Much though I like electronics, and as much as I enjoy playing with my new Olympus D-400 Zoom digital camera, there is something very satisfying about a traditional manual-everything 35 mm camera. I haven't followed camera and lens technology for many years, and I know that such things as aspheric elements have greatly improved such things as extreme wide-angle and telephoto lenses, but I'd be willing to bet that some of those lenses now selling for $50 are still as good as anything available, and probably better.

* * * * *

This from Robert Rudzki []: 

We are sort of thinking of ADSL which PacBell is now offering in our area and since we live only 5 blocks from the central office i expect good data rates, they certify 128kbps up and 384kbps down with a possible 1.5 mbps max limit not too shabby for 50 bucks per month and i already use them for my ISP.

so i downloaded WinGate 3.02 Standard install was easy and it seems to work quite smoothly on my 4-node Win95 and NT network, my wife and i are online right now, the WebCamII machine [AMD K5-PR-166 in a noname case] is happily chugging away uploading images once per daylight hour of our neighbor's house across the street where he runs his illegal used car lot that I am trying to get the City to shut down because of all the noise and traffic he generates but no luck yet...

We went to Fry's today! Wanting to get FrontPage 98, naturally they are all returned back to Microsoft with full credit and will sell me FrontPage 2000 for $150 I may wait a bit since you and Pournelle have reported enough trouble with that program.

They had an Intel guy there explaining the difference between Celerons and P-II's and handing out brochures about how great the P-!!! makes your internet experience...! Does Intel think we are all sockmonkeys?

My last company went to an all Mac [except for FedEx terminal and the controller's PC for account management and the payroll PC with a modem...] POS and inventory control solution back in 1994 just as the PPC 6100's were coming out we had a lot of trouble with hardware and the MacOS 7.1 to 7.5.3 versions with the horrid fatal "System error 11" which can be caused by 37 different conditions and you never got any information on which one it was... I will never buy or use a Mac again!

We ran a database called Flexware on all this crappy stuff and our VAR was two guys in a warehouse in North Hollywood, only one of which was a programmer, the other did sales and pep talks! You certainly get what you pay for, we had originally thought of IBM on JD Edward's database but the owner liked to save money and she sure did... =8^-)

I agree that the average citizen carrying a gun for self-protection legally or not would probably be well-skilled with it, all the people I know who carry illegally here in California are very good with their guns and spend a lot of time practicing.

OTOH most cops i have met in my employment tend to be ignorant of guns and how they work other than the mandatory range and annual qualification, just watch COPS and other 'reality-based' shows when they are disarming thugs and clearing guns for transport and see how many gun safety violations you can count!

I have always been fascinated by the huge array of uniformed cops behind Slick Willie or our own governor when he is holding up some assault 'weapon' with bayonet fixed and waving it around prior to signing yet another gun law. Are these cops on duty or their own time? Why aren't they patrolling the streets when I pay so much in taxes for them to do so? Most rank and file cops I have talked with think gun laws have no effect on criminals since by definition they don't obey laws with even more serious consequences and the 9 Old Men And Women In Black Dresses AKA THE SUPREMES have ruled felons do not have to comply with gun registration laws on the grounds of self-incrimination!

I see the guy in Atlanta collected $300,000 for the life insurance on his first wife and mother-in-law under suspicious circumstances, blows it all on day trading, loses another $100,000 in the last two weeks and kills 12 more people including his 2nd wife and both children and Billary Klinton says we need more gun laws?

Oh, well. There's ignorance all over, as many of your points make clear.

* * * * *

Another from Robert Rudzki []: 

I originally sent this to Pournelle in response to an anti-Spammer suggestion from one of his readers on how he makes the spammer 'pay' for Spam by repetitive dialing of the spammer's toll-free number that many are foolish enough to include with their Spam message...

Although I know some people [and their PC's... =8+] who spent a lot of time dialing OJ Simpsons' 800 number back when he was selling his video tape explaining why he had been properly acquitted in the criminal trial... The number went out of service the second day it was active and the tape did not sell very many copies for some odd reason.

Back when I sold guns for a living the corporate office got a mailing [!] from Handgun Control, Inc. giving an 800 # that you could dial so you could get a kit in the mail showing you how to lobby your politicians for yet more gun laws. Some of us decided it would be nice to make repeated requests at this number so we could get a 'lot' of the kits sent to us on Handgun Controls' nickel, but they were smarter than we were and after the 3rd call from the same number the 800 service refused to connect us figuring we were having them on. How bizarre, maybe I really wanted more gun laws in California how did they know differently? Sometimes the bear eats you and sometimes you eat the bear.

"Weeks tells us he collects 800, 877 and 888 toll-free numbers from Spam and then sets up a 28.8 modem to dial these automatically for hours so the spammer incurs big phone charges.

Well now:

When I was in Oklahoma City some years ago there was a man in the news who did not like Oral Roberts [a TV evangelist with a huge following in Oklahoma] and so set his PC and modem to repetitively dial the 800 number for funding pledges that Oral Roberts runs across the bottom of the TV screen during his religious show.

After 3 months, and I am surprised it took that long, he was arrested by the FBI on interstate tampering with the phone system, denial of service of a common carrier, and whole bunch of other very serious Federal communication charges.

He was convicted or course, since he forgot the 800 number trapped his home number that the modem was calling from and the trace was trivial, he did time in the Federal pen and paid a very big fine. I think the modem was still dialing merrily when the FBI showed up at his house with the warrant...

Based on the Federal conviction, Oral Roberts' church sued him for the estimated loss of revenue for the 3 months the lawyers calculated his modem was seizing the 800 number and preventing one of the faithful from getting through and pledging money, and it was a big amount although I no longer remember how much. But since he had no job, house, car, bank account or wife anymore, i doubt they collected much.

So while it might be satisfying to charge a clueless spammer a lot on his phone bill, is it worth a Federal felony on your rap sheet? Although I hear the food is better than in state prison..." 

As you say, phone bombing toll-free numbers is not a good idea. I remember reading about one poor sap who thought that it was safe to do that because he was using Caller-ID blocking. There's a sucker born every minute. I'm sure he was genuinely surprised when the police pulled up out front and hauled off him and all his computer equipment.

* * * * *

And still another from Robert Rudzki []: 

Paul tells us:

"Calling the iBook "girly" a) implies that Real Men Use Beige Computers and b) misses the point. It will sell well because it's an attractively priced, attractively packaged unit that offers some great capabilities-- especially the AirPort wireless networking stuff. 11Mbps, no wires, $99--"

Real Men Use Galvanized Mild Steel Chassis' Because They Run Their PC's With The Beige Cases Off!

[it looks cool, and runs cooler!]

Attractively priced? For a poor quality laptop, if it's anything like the other junk they have been selling for the last 5 years it is way overpriced. Remember the 5300 series laptop?

Attractively packaged? Well if you are a 13 year old 'mall rat' or Valley girl left over from the '80's and you decorate your house like Planet Hollywood it may be 'attractive' but it hurts my old eyes just to look at it but what the hay, that's me...

Yeah, we tried Digital Ocean wireless networking technology on Macs and never could get it to work, I would never trust wireless anything to work with an Apple product.

And Fry's carries 100BaseT NIC's for $19.95 on sale, $29.95 regular price,

I'll see your 11 mbps and raise you 89 more...



PS: Didja ever notice the one odd thing about "Cheers" AKA "The Bull and Finch" that in the show, nobody ever smokes in the bar? How often do you find alcoholics who have never smoked?

I'm plagued with guilt for making such a politically-incorrect observation about the iBook. I should have said that is is "appearance challenged". As far as the wireless notworking, I'll reserve judgment. Most of my readers who have tried using wireless have told me that it doesn't work well, if at all. If it does work, that'd indeed be useful. But wireless has been available for a long time in the PC environment with generally unsatisfactory results. Perhaps Apple got it right this time. They have a long history of being a technology laggard (do they have a pre-emptive multitasking OS yet?), and there are some advantages to that.



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