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Daynotes Journal

Week of 16 August 1999

Sunday, 22 August 1999 08:10

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, 16 August 1999

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The Register reports this morning that Opera is gaining share in the browser market. According to their latest figures, IE has 43.7%, Navigator 35.4%, and Opera 9.46%. Opera claims that last figure has now climbed to 10.2%. That may be true, although I doubt it. I just checked my web stats for last week. On my site last week, IE had 62.97%, Navigator 32.09%, and Opera only 1.03%. The remaining 3+% was accounted for by a bunch of different browsers, including several running on unusual operating systems. My guess is that my figures are more reliable than those that The Register published, which they admit come from a site visited by people who are "mostly developers, Web site designers, journos and browser nuts". In fact, my figures are probably high, too. I'd guess that my readers are much more likely to use Opera than is the general population. Overall, I'd be surprised if Opera has more than a 0.05% share of the browser market.

The Register also published an article saying that the Pentium II is now officially dead, something I'd declared several weeks ago. So those of us still running Pentium II systems are now officially using legacy processors, I guess... 

* * * * *

This from Bo Leuf [bo@leuf.com]: 

"What's depressing is that I know some women who are into PCs in a big way. Their work areas invariably resemble Barbara's."

If you lend me your Olympus, I'd post some comparative pictures <g>. I am blessed with a wife who is not compulsively neat, but she does sometimes mention that she regrets not having the dining-room area free instead of an office space there.

I fight a sometimes win, more often lose battle against clutter, and my wife and I share in the battle against paper clutter -- stacks grow on any flat surface, because invariably you have something in hand and don't know where to put it, so you put it on the nearest surface "for later". Next time you look that way again, there is a stack of totally unrelated papers inches deep. Never fails. Then you stand with the stack in hand, wondering where to put that to go through it, and the phone rings, so the stack goes on top of another stack...

There is something to learn from that. Nature's way of archiving? Perhaps just a cosmic law for sedimentation processes?

/ Bo

--

"Bo Leuf" <bo@leuf.com>
Leuf fc3 Consultancy
http://www.leuf.com/

I like it. The sedimentary theory of office organization. Perhaps millions of years from now they'll be mining paperstone from our former office locations. Entropy: it's not just a good idea. It's the law.

* * * * *

This from Tim Werth [twerth@kcnet.com]: 

I can wholeheartedly agree w/everyone's stories about wife's cleaning up offices. Both from my own experience and also from observing my parents over the years. My question is more generic about the female species however. Why is it that most women that I've known insist on keeping the house clean but at the very same time trash their cars??? I can think of several exceptions to this but as a whole it tends to hold up. Everything has to be in its place in the house but in a car women just throw stuff over their shoulder. I know, why ask why. ;-)

Hmm. You may be right statistically, but I must confess that I'm no more prone to cleaning up my car than my office. As a matter of fact, that's one of the things that I miss most about my Jeep CJ. I used to be able to clean out the inside by removing the drain plugs from the floor boards and hosing it down. I can't do that with my Trooper. Well, I could, but the carpet would get all soggy and hard to light. Barbara, on the other hand, has a neat car as well as a neat office. Her Trooper usually looks like it just came off the showroom floor. Mine, on the other hand, is lucky if it gets washed every couple of years. Of course, I keep it in the garage most of the time, and put an average of about 25 miles a month on the odometer (literally).

* * * * *

This from Robert Rudzki [rasterho@pacbell.net]: 

i like your office just as is, along the equipment closet, i myself ran out of space in our shared 13 x 13 foot spare bedroom/office/computer lab/armory, etc. so i set up a caseless pc on the coffee table in the living room! It is just amazing how easy it is to troubleshoot a pc when you don't have a cheap case [$19.95 at Fry's!] to get in the way and cut your fingers and hands to shreds!

i am sure the first woman living with the first caveman in a cave had a strong interest in sweeping the place out regularly from bone and hide scraps, they attract insect pests and scavenger animals, then she found some pretty flowers down by the creek when she was getting fresh water to bath in, so she brought them home and before you know it, Martha Stewart evolved from that first woman living with the first big lug of a caveman... and it was only a blink of the eye in GMT [Geologic Martha Time...] =8^-)

What a good idea. A PC in the living room. Actually, I've brought up from time to time my idea of putting 100BaseT jacks in our den so that Barbara and I could each have a PC near where we sit in the evening. I mentioned it again last week, and for the first time Barbara didn't object to the idea. She still doesn't think much of my idea of putting jacks in the bathrooms, though.

* * * * *

This from Jan Swijsen [qjsw@oce.nl]: 

>Hmm. Lucky she didn't shoot. 

Lucky someone in the car didn't pull a gun either. 

On the cleanup of your office. 

I think you should clean up just a little. For example if you move out all the (empty?) boxes you could get just that much more equipment in. <g>. 

I did notice a loose box on the ground somewhere on the photo of Barbara's office. Couldn't you use this as an argument, pointing out it is just a gradation of cleaned-up-ness ? <g>. 

I don't have a regular office at home, I have all my equipment in my bedroom resulting in a mixed chaos of clothes and books and computer bits distributed on all free surfaces. (The definition of a free surface here is 'any surface that stuff doesn't fall off from'). I am moving the computer stuff over to the attic but I am afraid the chaos will just follow me there. I do, just like your Barbara, put the extraneous bits back into the box and close it. Just because I don't have free space to drop it and closing the box provides a flat usable surface. When I look at my brothers workspace (he is not in computers but in DIY and woodworking) I see the same kind of chaos. His partner produces even more chaos. She was teaching arts and she gets the whole house overflowing with bits and pieces of art and school work and 'potentially useful' items. She does however complain about the unordered layout of his tool shed :) . It is not the computers that cause this and it clearly is not only a guy thing. 

It is, as you said, the task focused way one lives. 

BTW If all our offices look 'a bit disorganized' is it a wonder that (MS) Office is a bit (crashingly) disorganized ? 

Entropy wins. All times, every time. 

Svenson.

Actually, you're right. I should clean up a little, and I probably will. I know it's time to do that when I start finding that I can't immediately put my hands on something I want. The other day, I was scratching around looking for some of the components I need to build my new system. I knew that there were two Pentium III/550 CPUs around here somewhere, but I couldn't find them. Barbara said, "how can you possibly lose two Pentium III/550s?" Good point. As far as the loose box on the floor of Barbara's office, would that it were true. In fact, that's a very neatly organized box of CDs.

 


 

 

 

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Tuesday, 17 August 1999

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A more-or-less Y2K issue hits this Saturday at 8:00 p.m. If you have an older Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver, it may go berserk or stop functioning then. See this page for more details.

* * * * *

This from Bo Leuf [bo@leuf.com]: 

In passing, apropos your figures...

"IE had 62.97%, Navigator 32.09%, and Opera only 1.03%."

Note that Opera by default reports itself "as being Netscape" (actually Mozilla) for server compatibility reasons -- not because it is Netscape compatible (it isn't) but simply in order not to invoke IE-specific functionality/pages (which by now seems often to be default server/site behavior). The full HTTP_USER_AGENT string for my system is actually: "Mozilla/4.0 (Windows NT 4.0;US) Opera 3.60 [en]", but a lot of analytic code will stop at the Mozilla part and class this as Netscape 4. I think earlier versions did not even report the Opera version, only the Mozilla part.

/ Bo

--

"Bo Leuf" <bo@leuf.com>
Leuf fc3 Consultancy
http://www.leuf.com/

Well, yes, but nearly all versions of any mainstream browser identify themselves as Mozilla for just the reason you mention. I use Analog to analyze my logfiles, and it does indeed differentiate between the different browsers.

* * * * *

This from Robert Rudzki [rasterho@pacbell.net]: 

Well, the old coffee table PC just could not see any of the 3 nic's, so I tried 2 more old tired mobos I had sitting in the junk box they had various problems that I barely remembered so I wasted several more hours of my life, but did watch the VIPER movie with the main spousal unit Taylor while I played with the hardware. Do they have teenage boys write and direct TV action movies these days?, it was really juvenile and technically impossible in at least 10 different areas.

All the old cases and mobos went into the trash today, Wednesday is pickup day... I saved the 70 Meg of EDO and FPM of generic memory in case I need to waste more hours of my life at a later date. =8^-) 

I read Dr. Pournelle's Byte column today and his remark about the 2 far-end connectors on the new SCSI internal cables being different piqued my interest, do I load and lock straight tracer then alternating AP and HE into the water-cooled twin fifties, or do I do a little research before I shoot him out of the sky?

Heh, good thing I did the research or I would have had egg on my face...

Discretion is the better part of valor, to coin a phrase. 

I see that the Wall Street Journal today had an article about predictive dialers now hanging up when they hear a real person but recording their message on your answering machine, even to sounding like real people talking with the 'ah's' and 'em's'. They use special algore-rythms to detect live speech and hang up, yet record if the program detects a synthetic voice.

Janet Reno told us today that gun buyers need to take written tests to see if they know shooting kids at a church run school is illegal and a reporter asked if that would have prevented the recent Buford R. Furrow from shooting all those kids and she refused to answer the question.

The famous Brady Bill would not have stopped Hinckley for a New York Second, since he had purchased the gun 4 months before shooting Ron Reagan and all his mental health records were confidential since his Mom and Dad were rich and had him committed to private clinics all the many times he had gone into the deep end before. He had no criminal record on file anywhere.

Robert Rudzki
rasterho@pacbell.net
gewebe@pacbell.net
http://home.pacbell.net/rasterho

I'm still not sure what Pournelle is talking about on the SCSI cables. I've never seen one like he described. I've seen self-terminating cables, but those don't have two connectors on the end. They have one connector and a lumpy terminator at the very end of the cable. In theory, terminating twice shouldn't hurt anything. That is, if the final device is terminated, having the second terminator at the end of the cable should have no effect. The terminated device itself should stop the SCSI signals dead, and they should never get to the final termination.

 


 

 

 

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Wednesday, 18 August 1999

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Updates are going to be short this week. I'm working hard. We did get one minor problem with Barbara's new system fixed yesterday. I was working away yesterday morning when I heard an anguished cry from her office. As it turned out, Barbara can't stand the keyboard we installed on theodore. Thoth used an AT system board, and theodore of course has an ATX. Barbara wanted her old keyboard back. I knew that I had an AT-keyboard-to-PS/2 adapter around here somewhere, but I couldn't put my hands on it, as usual. Barbara was running some errands, anyway, so she stopped and picked one up. She now has her old keyboard back, and is happy.

I see that Tom's Hardware has run an article on Athlon motherboards. Tom complains that it's hard to find Athlon motherboards and impossible to find Athlon processors. According to Tom, there's some great conspiracy led by Intel to prevent motherboard manufacturers from shipping Athlon motherboards. I think it's much more likely that most motherboard manufacturers have noticed AMD's past failures to ship product in a timely manner and have simply decided to wait and see before they devote resources to manufacturing boards for which processors are scarce.

* * * * *

This from Robert Rudzki [rasterho@pacbell.net]: 

I saw that Pournelle's home page is getting cleaner and better looking, now if only he would deep-six those left column blue icons in favor of text labels.

Jerry AKA 'Wade Curtis' =8+] is plugging the Science Fiction convention in Anaheim, he provided a link:  I went there to see that he is a guest speaker, it's only 40+ miles from my house maybe I should go to hear him in person...

Heh, after I heckle him that the only sci-fi writer alive worse than Niven is Pournelle they'll probably haul me off or the adoring crowd will mob me and I will die the death of 10,000 paper cuts from bad science fiction hardbacks. I have read exactly one of Niven's books back in 1972, NEUTRON STAR it was and it was terrible.

That has to be one of the ten worst sites I have seen in my 6 years of Web surfing, but maybe my vision is going...

I think every kid should read all of RAH at least once, in order but when you get to be old and grey you think about the $3.4 billion cost of the Cassini space-junk sling-shotting back around the Earth to spend the next 7 years flying to Saturn. Then I begin to wonder about the cost-benefit of these interplanetary probes. 263 million Americans paid $128 each for the privilege on a one-year basis. What do we get in return? 

I am all for the unmanned/unwomaned commercial and military use of space. GPS is great, 500 channels of TV, The Red Chinese now being able to track our boomer nuke subs hundreds of feet underwater on deep patrol quiet. But to save money, use unmanned heavy lift boosters like the Titan IV, scrap the Shuttle and all the interplanetary probes today.

I saw in the paper a column by our 'Dave Barry' clone only not as funny, about a local kid who went to college back in Nashville, had a local ISP account there and then moved back to Riverside, CA and his mom's house to study for his bar exam. [just what we need in California, yet another lawyer!] He was staying logged in his dial-up connection doing on-line tutorials for 12 hours per day, using his Nashville, TN local ISP number long distance! The total phone bill was over $2700! I only hope he never takes any telecommunication law cases...

The Board of LA County Supes has decided to ban all gun sales on County land including the Pomona County Fair Gun Show at 4 times per year one of the biggest gun shows on the Left Coast. They sent undercover BATF and local fuzz with $4000 to buy the dreaded illegal assault style weapons and ran out of money real fast since there were so 'many' of them at the show...  Since you can't get a decent Colt Sporter or HK for much less than $1000 out here, $4000 does not go very far.

And the guy selling Class III weapons did not have them at the show, you had to go to his gun shop back room to see and buy these guns. But you would have trouble seeing that from the TV news unless you were watching carefully.

Robert Rudzki

rasterho@pacbell.net
gewebe@pacbell.net
http://home.pacbell.net/rasterho

Well, as far as the left menu bar icons, I agree with you, but de re gustibus non est disputandum. As far as your opinion that Pournelle and Niven are the worst living SF authors, I think you're in a very small minority. They are generally acknowledged to be two of the best. Mr. Heinlein himself said that Mote was the best SF novel he'd ever read, including his own. I've read all of their joint works, all of Pournelle's individual works, and many of Niven's individual works. I think Pournelle is by far the better author of the two.

 


 

 

 

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Thursday, 19 August 1999

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The Seagate ST150176LW Barracuda 50 drive I'd been waiting for showed up yesterday. That's 50 GB of U2W disk. Fifty thousand megabytes. That's incredible. And it all fits in a 3.5" drive with a 1" form factor. I plan to install this drive in an audio/video server that will sit next to our television, VCR, and audio gear. That raises all sorts of questions. I'm already checking into wireless keyboards (Barbara says she won't put up with a keyboard cable stretching from our sofa to the equipment). What about computer video output? I suspect there's no way that my JVC television has the bandwidth to display even at 640X480, so how do I display computer video? Has anyone done anything like this before?

* * * * *

I thought it was about time to do a quick update on my experiences with the Olympus D-400 Zoom. On balance, this camera is just about perfect. The resolution is more than adequate for what I use it for, but there are a few things I would change:

  • Flash - the built-in flash works well, but is somewhat anemic. I would like to see provision made for using an external flash. This could be something as simple as a hot shoe that could be used with a "smart" flash unit, or as complex as full integration with high-end flash units.
  • USB support - the FlashPath adapter works well, but it would be nice if the D-400 Zoom had a USB port and allowed one simply to connect a USB cable and download images automatically.
  • Lens - the current 3X zoom lens is pretty good, but I'd like to see something with a bit broader range, say 6X to 8X, from somewhat wider than the current widest to quite a bit longer than the current longest. Say something on the order of 24mm to 200mm equivalent.

But those are all nit-picking. In fact, the D-400 Zoom is a wonderful digital camera as it is, and I recommend it highly. I'd intended to include a summary of my findings on battery life here, but the camera is still running on its first charge. I've taken about 125 shots total so far, with moderate use of the flash and light use of the LCD screen. Most of those shots were at SHQ, although perhaps 25 early ones were done at SQ, a dozen or so at HQ, and a couple with no compression.

* * * * *

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

I think there's another explanation for the relative scarcity of Athlon motherboards and CPUs right now. Since VIA, ALi, and SiS don't have Athlon chipsets ready yet, AMD's supplying both the CPUs and the chipsets. Big companies like IBM and Compaq are interested in the Athlon and have announced systems based on the new chip. Now, if you're AMD and have a limited supply of CPUs and chipsets, are you going to sell them to IBM and Compaq, or are you going to sell them to brokers? If I have enough chips to build a half-million systems and the likes of Compaq and IBM want all of them, I'm gonna give the chips to them because Compaq and IBM help my reputation, while second-tier manufacturers can hurt it. How many people believe AMD chips aren't compatible with Intel chips because second-tier manufacturers have slapped AMD chips onto cheap motherboards with incompatible chipsets and el cheapo video cards and not loaded the proper drivers (assuming they exist)...? I've seen a large number of these cheap systems that had compatibility problems that I eventually traced down to drivers not being loaded, or the wrong drivers being loaded. That's not AMD's fault, but AMD shoulders much of the blame since their chip is the biggest-name component in the system.

AMD had the same initial shortage problem with each iteration of the K5 and K6 series as well, though it was compounded by manufacturing woes in both cases.

The Intel conspiracy theory is kind of hard to buy. Is Intel paranoid enough to do such a thing? Maybe. Is there any need for them to do so? No.

Dave Farquhar

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

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

Your explanation strikes me as very possible. I take anything that Dr. Pabst says about Intel versus AMD with a grain of salt. Tom's Hardware has always shown a strong pro-AMD bias, and this latest strikes me as more of the same. As far as the problems with K6-* systems, I'm sure the factors you point out have something to do with it. But I think a much more important factor is the demonstrable inferiority of the Socket 7 platform (and non-Intel chipsets) to GTL+, Slot 1, Socket 370, and the Intel BX/ZX chipsets. Socket 7 was simply never intended to run at the speeds it has now been pushed to.

I also found an interesting article on The Register this morning. Apparently, an independent benchmarking lab is claiming that AMD "cooked" the benchmarks to show the K7 was faster than the Pentium III. I figure it'll all come out in the wash anyway.

* * * * *

This from Robert Rudzki [rasterho@pacbell.net]: 

In matters of taste there is no dispute, I like your Latin.

As a child, I used to go to the Main Library in Chicago with my parents, the checkout limit was ten books, so using my mom's card was hard if she and I wanted to get more than ten books collectively we had to negotiate.

So one day the checkout librarian said there is a children's room and he can get his own library card if you will sign the form and make good any books lost or damaged. So at the age of 7 I had my very own library card at a very large and important library. I was interested in science and gadgets and discovered RAH and Asimov early on, read all their teen books then started on the adult books. I normally browsed the adult sections, occasionally my mom would not let me check out a book for unspecified reasons [when you're older you'll thank me for this...] and the checkout librarian would raise an eyebrow at some of my choices but never said anything, to me anyway.

Once we arrived in California, I promptly got a library card at my local branch and got ten books at a time, 5 on each side of the dropped handle bars of my 10-speed bike on off to home and a good read. I read Analog when it was small and when it was big and then small again, I found Campbell's essays made me think and widen my horizons. 

Basically I read the entire collection of sci-fi they had and all the back issues of Analog, tons of other books as well, so by the time I reached 17 I had read more sci-fi than most people I have met.

In fact I burned out on it, and when Pournelle and Niven finally came into my sights I wondered what all the noise was about.

But then Howard Stern and Dr. Laura are highly regarded by a lot of people, as were Roman circus arenas and European public executions were widely attended, so much so they had to move them into prison yards the crowds got so unruly and boisterous.

I remember the first time I read THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS I thought RAH had gone completely around the bend, and his later works continued the decline IMO. His last book and it is a sign I cannot remember the title, was just awful and I wish I had never read it.

Anthony Burgess, Elmore Leonard and John D. Macdonald are my favorite authors now, Len Deighton is a close '2nd'. Taylor likes Leonard, Ross Macdonald and Dick Francis and Anna McCaffrey with all those improbable flying dragons on the covers... I cannot get her to read Burgess she says he uses too many big words.

The 2 worst non-science fiction authors IMO are Arthur Haley and Alistair MacClean the latter's books are even worse than the movies made from them which are really bad...Ludlum can get pretty silly and not tie up loose ends by the end of the book, Robbins is great for really sick and kinky babes and hot sex.

PS: I found it odd that Pournelle in his 3 [!] trips to see the Corpse Plant at the Huntington told us although he had 'research' privileges there he had not visited in nearly 20 years. We went there at least once every couple of months on Saturdays until the crowds became impossible, and the large families with undisciplined children running, climbing on and 'decorating' all the flat surfaces and statuary. The Huntington finally instituted a reservation system and when the lots are full, they lock the gates. By this time we had moved to Riverside and both of us were driving a lot of miles on the freeway to work and the last thing we wanted to do on the weekend was get on the freeway one more time...

I did stop there during the week for lunch if I was at the Pasadena store for tech support work on the POS system it was really quiet and cool on the lunch pavilion patio.

Robert Rudzki
rasterho@pacbell.net
gewebe@pacbell.net
http://home.pacbell.net/rasterho

Well, again, favorite authors and books are obviously a matter of personal preference. I haven't read as much science fiction as you have, I guess, but I'd certainly put Pournelle and Niven right up there with Heinlein among my favorite authors. Heck, for that matter, I kind of like Lois McMaster Bujold's Barrayar series, although I guess it doesn't qualify as "serious" SF. As far as _The Moon is a Harsh Mistress_, I'd have to say that you're in a minority opinion again. It did win a Hugo, and many, including me, consider it to be one of Heinlein's best. Nor do I share your opinion that he showed any decline in his later books, although many thought that _The Number of the Beast_ was not among his better works. I always liked it. I've never read Haley, but I agree that Alistair McLean is not a particularly good author.

* * * * *

This from Mark Grieshaber [mvgrie@shute.monsanto.com]: 

Hello Robert:

I found a page of your online journal when I was searching for info regarding DEC RX-50 floppies. You mentioned that you still had some used ones lying about since you never throw anything away. I've just picked up a DECmate computer (older cousin to the DEC Rainbow), and am trying to get it up and running for nostalgia. Both the DECmate and Rainbow used RX50 floppies, but I am having a hard time finding any these days, as they are of course, completely obsolete.

Any chance you would be willing to part with yours? Used is fine with me, as I would be reformatting them to start with. I'm also interested in the old DEC hardware, as well... I am curious as to what equipment you used the RX50 floppies on?

I'd be happy to pay for packing and shipping (I'm in St. Louis, MO). UPS will come to your home for a pickup, if that would be more convenient for you than a trip to the Post Office.

I also note you were planning on using the Tyvek sleeves from floppies to protect cds. If interested, I have a modest number of the flexible cd sleeves (transparent front, soft back) that I could send your way.

Also, plenty of jewel boxes, but you indicated you didn't like them so much (still, a stock of a dozen spare goes a long way towards covering breakage...).

Mark Grieshaber
mvgrie@shute.monsanto.com

Hmmm. I think they're still around, but I can't swear to it. I do let Barbara clean things out periodically, and that may be something that has been pitched, although I don't think so. Once I can clear a path back there, I'll check and let you know. If you don't hear from me for a while, you'll know there was an avalanche and I'm trapped beneath a pile of obsolete computer stuff. As for machines, I used RX-50's on all three of DEC's "kind-of-PC" machines--the DECmate II, the Rainbow, and the Pro 350/380.

 


 

 

 

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Friday, 20 August 1999

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Interesting stuff this morning. The Register broke a story about the Intel utility newspeed.exe, which allows overclocking a processor from the command line. The bad news is that it works only for processors that are not locked, those marked "Intel Confidential." I have some of those, but I've never been a fan of over-clocking so I probably won't both to try the program, except perhaps to verify that it works. If you somehow have gotten your hands on an Intel Confidential CPU and want to try this program, you can download newspeed.exe from HardOCP here.

* * * * *

My morning newspaper tells me that the US Navy is raising the alarm about Y2K problems. The results of their study say that widespread outages of electrical power, water, and natural gas are "possible" or "likely" in many cities. The government says that the Navy conclusions are flawed because they assumed that any system that had not been verified would fail. That's perhaps not an unreasonable assumption. At any rate, I plan to lay in a cord of firewood. We have both wood and natural gas fireplaces, so we'll be able to stay warm no matter what happens. And a cord of wood is not a bad thing to have around anyway.

* * * * *

This from bdenman [bdenman@FTC-I.NET]: 

Good morning. I have been out of pocket for awhile (was in Texas for 10 days) but have tried to catch up on your column including discussions regarding AMD. I am not sure about Tom being pro AMD. And if someone cooked the Athlon's benchmarks...it won't remain a secret and certainly will hurt.

When it comes to AMD vice Intel, I personally think it comes down to capability, performance, support and value. AMD and the Celeron are both viable options. But I do almost agree now that the Celeron chip is probably the better value now for the low to middle system. The price factor has been minimized and there may be still be a few minor compatibility issues with the K-6... actually more of a 3rd party driver support problem related to the cpu's 3DNow instructions and/or chipsets from VIA, ALI, etc.

Doing some research over the past couple of months, I saw various comments regarding driver isssues and chipsets for AMD. This was of interest as I was in the market for a new graphics card. My old STB Lightspeed 128 (with 2.25MB video ram) was working fine with my K6-2/400 but I wanted to run 1024/768 at true color (24 bit) so needed more ram. Anyway, I kept reading that some video drivers worked poorly with various chipsets. Last week I finally bought an ATI Xpert 128 on sale (based in part on JerryP's experience). I did find their standard drivers work fine for me on my system so who knows. I did try their Beta drivers for the AMD though were not stable enough for me..lockups occurred.

Now I also would like a new PCI sound card. I leaned heavily towards Creative's SB Live Value until I read various comments in the SB Live newsgroup. A number of people there were seeking help as there are apparently compatibility problems with the VIA chipset. So I have put that purchase on hold until that is resolved. I will continue to make do with my basic ISA AOpen sound card which still works fine.

So, bottom line...going with Intel probably is better. Drivers for AMD seemingly maybe be late or not optimized (makes sense that most companies code for Intel cpus and chipsets first). This is not to say that good combinations are not available. Just not the universal compatibility one gets with Intel no matter what the cost.

Having said all that, bottom line is next time I will probably go with Intel. Not so much for the support/compatibility issues (which I think are minor) but for the reason that I believe that AMD is doomed and won't be around much longer. I do not think they will succeed even with the K-7/Athlon. Intel has too much of a presence/brand preference/market bias on the high and profitable end and AMD cannot generate enough income working the low to middle end. So; I expect AMD will call it quits sometime next year.

I also would not be suprised to see Intel then slowly raise entry level prices as new CPUs are introduced. As older slower chips go away, new and faster ones will naturally be more expensive but there will not be a corresponding drop in existing chip prices. Oh well.

Later

Bruce

bdenman@ftc-i.net
http://web.infoave.net/~bdenman

I have no religious issues about processors. The simple fact is that Socket 7 is an inadequate platform for processors running at modern speeds. Anand just ran a review of a Tyan Socket 7 motherboard, announcing more or less that he'd finally found a stable Socket 7 motherboard, now that it was just about too late. I agree with Anand about that, although the EPoX Socket 7 motherboards are the best of the bunch in my opinion. I wouldn't use a Tyan on a bet. The Athlon changes the equation a lot, because Slot A is competitive with Slot 1/Socket 370 and GTL+ in terms of stability and suitability for running a fast processor. The question is whether AMD can execute, which they haven't done well in the past. The secondary questions are whether motherboard manufacturers will deliver high quality Athlon motherboards in quantity, and whether Via and other chipset manufacturers can deliver stable, full-featured chipsets. That last is a major question in my opinion.

* * * * *

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

I've only had passing contact with the ATI All-in-Wonder video card--my use of it on a client's computer was to create text files of the 'caption' content of certain TV programs for a project I was working on,--but it has connectors for standard NTSC video output, if your TV will accept that.

Can't attest to the quality, but I've also come across some people who use it as a means to get computer video output into large television monitors for presentation purposes, and they seem satisfied with it.

Thanks. I'll check it out.

* * * * *

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

I saw that Register article too. I'm wondering how many people are surprised--it's extremely common practice to cook your benchmarks to make you look good. Intel does it, AMD does it, Cyrix and IDT did it... Apple and Motorola certainly do it. I never buy anything based on manufacturers' benchmarks. Watch the hardware sites, figure out what it is you're going to do with the computer, then see how the chips in question perform in the roles you need. Then figure out what you're willing to spend, and buy the chip that meets your budget that does the best job, being sure to leave enough money in your budget for adequate memory, a good video card and a good hard drive (all of which are more important than the CPU in most cases anyway).

I can cook a benchmark to make whatever chip you want look as bad as you want. Want the Pentium III to look bad? Well, let's see how it runs with my ISA Paradise VGA video card, circa 1991... Hmm, that's too good. I've got an ISA IDE controller and an old Seagate 120-megabyte IDE drive hanging around here somewhere... Now where'd I put that 8-meg PC100 DIMM? Seems to me that Robert Collins did a piece on benchmark cooking over at www.x86.org a couple of years back that's still relevant. 

The most important thing is that the performance of these chips is very close, and now that Intel's being attacked at the high end, we can get 500-MHz CPUs for less than $300. It wouldn't matter if the K7 were slightly slower than a P3 running at the same speed, because consumer perception is that megahertz is all that matters, and the clock speeds are comparable. Once K7 motherboards are manufactured in quantity and the price comes down to a reasonable level (who cares if a K7 costs $100 less than a comparable P3 when the K7 motherboard costs $100 more than a comparable P3 board?), things will be better for all of us, regardless of which camp we belong to. Intel's sweating, and what's bad for Intel right now is good for consumers.

Dave Farquhar

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

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

Yes, I agree with you about benchmarks, which is one of the reason I don't pay a whole lot of attention to them. That and the fact that speed is usually the least important issue. Chances are that no one sitting in front of a given machine will know (or care) whether it has a Pentium III/600 or an Athlon/600 in it. If you can't tell the difference, what difference does it make? Far more important are issues like stability, availability of bug-free drivers, etc. etc. Stuff that most people pay scant attention to.

* * * * *

And another from Dave Farquhar [farquhar@lcms.org]: 

Here's another article on the benchmarks that goes into a bit more detail than The Register's story:

What AMD did is shady, but little different from Intel's standard practice of optimizing its code with MMX or SSE instructions, then comparing it to unoptimized code for whatever they see as competition (be it AMD/Cyrix/IDT/Rise CPUs or older Intel CPUs). A truly fair benchmark would be optimized for each CPU in question, using whatever special features are appropriate for that CPU, and that would give you an idea of not only PIII vs. K7 performance but also SSE vs. 3DNow! performance, but the real-world usefulness of even that benchmark would be questionable because there are some applications and/or device drivers that are optimized for one or the other but not both.

Mark Twain would probably say there are lies, damned lies, and then there are benchmarks.

I don't really think that doing a benchmark optimized for, say, SSE is cheating. The benchmarks that Intel supplies allow one to compare an application running on an SSE processor with and without SSE optimizations to that app. I think that's a valid method, especially given Intel's dominance and the likelihood that most software vendors will support SSE for apps where it makes sense to do so. What outrages me is the vendors (some video card vendors are notorious for this) that optimize their drivers for a specific benchmark, such as the PC Magazine WinBench benchmark. That would be questionable if all they were doing was actually optimizing the drivers for the benchmark, but what they do is spoof the benchmark, which is simply cheating.

* * * * *

This from Werth, Timothy P [timothy.werth@eds.com]: 

Thought you would both find this interesting.

Indeed. For those who do not view the article, Mr. Moody is commenting on the fact that computers are supposed to have increased productivity dramatically, but no such increase shows up in the overall productivity statistics. He uses some rather tortured reasoning to blame it on Microsoft Windows. I think it's attributable to something much simpler. Computers have indeed had a huge impact on productivity, as anyone who uses one knows. But there's been another equally ubiquitous factor counting the productivity gains due to computers. The government via ever-increasing laws and regulations has been killing productivity. If PCs did not exist, this would be evident as a huge and ongoing drop in overall productivity year by year. The fact that productivity has remained more or less constant over the last decade or two simply means that the huge productivity increases made possible by ubiquitous PCs has been offset by the huge and growing productivity decreases caused by government regulation.

* * * * *

This from a regular reader who asked to remain anonymous:

Don't attribute it to me, but I thought you might be interested to know what Microsoft's up to-- this trick also works for Minesweeper and Solitaire, but not for 3D Pinball.

From: <mailto:ryancoody@mail.utexas.edu>Ryan Coody
Newsgroups: ms.beta.win2000.general,ms.beta.win2000.tips_n_tricks
Sent: Saturday, August 14, 1999 3:14 PM
Subject: The "boss key" is back!

Anyone remember the "boss key" from the old DOS games? A key that you could
hit that would either immediatly exit the game, blank the screen, or bring
up a fake screen that looked like you were working.

In the Win2k version of FreeCell you can hit 'ESC' to minimize it and
replace the title with "budget.xls"

387729
Ryan Coody

Thanks. I'll have to remember that in case I catch myself playing Solitaire when I walk into my office.

 


 

 

 

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Saturday, 21 August 1999

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The morning paper tells me that a new study says that adult soccer players (football, for you non-US readers) are likely to suffer mental impairments, presumably from striking the ball repeatedly with their heads.

* * * * *

The Washington Post ran a truly frightening article. Apparently, the Justice Department is annoyed that encryption technology is making it possible for us ordinary people to protect our documents on our PCs. They want to allow agents to break into our homes to disable encryption on our PCs preparatory to a later visit to actually seize the information.

* * * * *

Bo Leuf is in the midst of making some changes to his leuf.com domain. If you have problems accessing it, note the following message from Bo:

I am moving the LeufCom hosting. The DNS update should be seamless, but in case it is not, the "raw" subweb URL to the new location is http://www.leuf.net/leufcom/ and the pages will all be there some time during week 34.

* * * * *

One or two of the following letters engage in ad hominem attacks on Robert Rudzki. Ordinarily, I'd not have published those letters, or would have removed the references, but I figured that by engaging in ad hominem attacks himself, Mr. Rudzki had at least tacitly approved others doing the same. And I figure he's a big boy.

Incidentally, thanks to those of you who have started sending me mail in rich-text or HTML form. It makes it much easier to get them posted here because I don't have to worry about line ends and paragraph breaks.

* * * * *

This from cc [cc@carnagepro.com]: 

Boy are you having a good time. I have cut Dr Pournelle's bookmark out of my humour section, as I don't have a "right wing idiot" section he's gone. The Cold Warrior bit did it for me. 

I see you have been corresponding with Robert Rudzki. An even bigger fool than Jerry. His writing is even more self-indulgent than JP's but I have too high a standard in my humour section for him.

To get to the point here. I am amused by your reaction to Mr Moody's piece. He is no fan of MS and so blames the lack of increase on that, you decide it is big government and reveal your predudice. Am I the only one with a sharp axe?

Lets get real here. Computers are for networking and the reason we network em' is to play Quake.

That's why those of us who do it for a living are amused by all this nonsense about production and productivity;).

CC

--

Upgrade to Linux...the penguins are hungry!
Chris Carson aka "GreyDeth"
250-248-0142
http://carnagepro.com

Well, I don't think I'm showing any prejudice when I blame increasing government regulation for a decrease in productivity. Simply ask anyone who runs a business how much time and effort is required to comply with government regulations now versus ten years ago and twenty years ago. The impact of government intrusiveness on productivity is not in question, at least to anyone who has to deal with it.

* * * * *

This from Matt Beland [mbeland@itool.com]:

No snide comments from Robert Rudzki today? Gee, that's too bad... :)

I don't have anything useful to say today, other than to note that Tom Syroid is right about "virtual friendships," at least for so-called "geeks"; I spend an average of 14 hours a day online between work and home, and my best friends (aside, of course, from the lovely and talented Mrs. Me) are people I've never met, rarely "spoken" to, and sometimes know only by screen name or alias. It's odd, completely new and different, and yet somehow very old. After all, after reading RAH and Niven/Pournelle's books so many times, some of my best friends from childhood had to be Whitbread and Staley, Renner and Renner's Motie, Juan Rico, Matt and Tex from Space Cadet, and a host of others. Everyone wanted to know Mama Maureen - some better than others :) - and of course, there was Tom and Huck from Mark Twain, Peter Pan, the Swiss Family Robinson, and a host of others. We laughed with them, cried with them, and in our minds, at least, fought dangers and celebrated victories with them. Well, we all laugh with you and the others at the antics of the Border Collies, or the stories of Roberta bombing the Great Hall with trash bags of hardware, or Danielle forgetting the lessons of her parents, and we are perplexed with you when the latest software/hardware problem crops up. The difference is that you answer back in more than our imaginations, and we don't have to wait for the next book release to hear from you.

And so, friend, we thank you and appreciate everything you do for us.

Matt Beland

Thanks. We had many of the same friends growing up.

* * * * *

This from a reader who requests anonymity:

Why do you continue to print Rudzki's ravings? The man is imbalanced and all you're doing is encouraging him. I don't know what Dr. Pournelle ever did to him but he seems to have some kind of vendetta against him.

Well, I print letters that I consider interesting. I don't necessarily agree with everything (or anything) that any particular reader sends me--I certainly don't agree with much of what Mr. Rudzki has to say--but I like to keep things stirred up. And I will say that at least Mr. Rudzki is willing to put his name to the stuff he writes. I almost didn't print your letter for that reason. Requesting anonymity so as not to upset your employer or something similar is one thing. Requesting anonymity for a personal attack is quite another. But, on balance, I decided to go ahead and publish your letter. I don't think I'll publish any similar ones, however.

* * * * *

This from another reader who requests anonymity:

I think if you decide to put this up, I'd like to remain anonymous, thanks :-)

"I think it's attributable to something much simpler. Computers have indeed had a huge impact on productivity, as anyone who uses one knows. But there's been another equally ubiquitous factor counting the productivity gains due to computers. The government via ever-increasing laws and regulations has been killing productivity."

Government regulation may take some of the heat, but there's another factor at work that I think both you and Moody have overlooked. 

That is that computers enabled a lot of things to be done that couldn't be done in the old days because of the sheer cost in time and labor. A given document might have been better if it contained a diagram -- but producing the diagram might take two or three man-days' fussing with pencil, paper, T-square and templates. No diagram. Now there's Visio, and the diagram you didn't do before is not only doable but required. The document it took you a man-day to produce as plain typed text now is much fancier, festooned with six different fonts and bullets and numbers and embedded links to a table of contents and of course an embedded diagram -- and it takes a man-day to produce.

Likewise writing a memo meant drafting the thing in longhand and then getting it typed, or maybe even typing it yourself. If you wanted to send it to a distribution list you had to have it copied, or make copies, and send it through the corporate snail mail system. That was a lot of work, enough so that it wasn't often done for trivia (unless you had a secretary you could stick with it). Now anybody struck by some absolutely essential bit of trivia can pound it out in Word and dump it into the in-boxes of everybody in the department or the division or the company with a few mouse clicks. The sort of corporate bumf that used to go up on bulletin boards now floods e-mail systems from sea to shining sea.

The bean counters and paper pushers were particularly enchanted with the new possibilities that desktop automation offered; all sorts of things that were simply impossible in the old days could now be done, and if they had anything to say about it (and they always do) they would be, too. Everybody could now write a weekly status report, and a weekly time sheet accounting for every minute of his or her time. Their managers could take their subordinates' status reports and write status reports for _their_ managers, and so on right up the chain. Every process could be made lengthier and more complicated, with more documentation required at every step -- the most trivial project could now have its very own six-page task list and of course a constantly updated Gantt chart! What's more, the ease and speed with which this information could be shared meant that every step of the process could be subjected to review and comment! Gloryosky! More meetings and conference calls and paper-passing! And when it comes to CYA, we're in heaven -- our butts aren't only covered, they're positively _fortified_ in paper!

This is not to say that government regulation has had no impact, but I think you're underestimating the ability of corporate America to take up the slack of the productivity gains computers offered with the busy work that the same computers made possible. in my own case, and I hardly think I'm untypical, anywhere from a half day to a full day's potentially productive time, each and every week, is sunk into this kind of tomfoolery. And that isn't even counting the added complexity and extra steps now required to get actual work done. As far as I can see very little of this comes out of government regulation -- companies do it to themselves, and have some kind of suicidal impulse to do more and more of it all the time. 

Actually, I hadn't overlooked that factor, although I didn't explicitly mention it. But even considering the amount of useless work that computers encourage, it's clear to anyone who remembers using a typewriter, slide rule, or adding machine that computers have dramatically cut the amount of effort needed to achieve a desired result.

Government has damaged productivity in two primary ways. First, of course, is the effect of burdensome and useless regulations. Those are damaging in themselves, and more so because they require that personnel and other resources be devoted to ensuring compliance. Forsyth County, NC government, for example, now has a full-time staff member who spends most of his time visiting all county sites and cutting the heads from two-prong extension cords. I am not making this up. Second is the fact that government regulations make it increasingly harder to cut deadwood from the employee roster, as Dilbert makes plain. That's always been a problem in government agencies, and has always been a problem to a limited extent in private business, but it's becoming much more of a problem everywhere.

* * * * *

This from Robert Rudzki [rasterho@pacbell.net]: 

It's been hot here a lot, no surprise for Southern California in August. The wife Taylor was sitting reading in her favorite chair and sort of listening to "The Rockford Files" on UHF Canale 56 [she likes Jimbo Garner] when she wrinkled her nose and said something has died outside. Most of our windows are open when we're home, we run the A/C only on the really hot days.

This was my cue to go out and look in the side germanium flower bed that edges the northern side of the house. I found a baby possum dead and real stinky that I had seen coming through the cat door in the kitchen a couple of days ago, so I got a shovel and covered him with 5 spade-fulls of soil. We have several vicious stray cats who wander around here, ours just stare in amazement at young possums who come to eat and drink water from the cat dishes.

I have a friend who cut his Winchester Model 75 target rifle barrel down to 18", 11 degree reverse taper crown on the muzzle. He has target blocks and a 12x Unertl Ultra on it, with .22 CBee Longs, 29 grains @ 700 fps it sounds as if you dropped a heavy book flat on a hardwood floor, more than one stray has died instantly of 'natural causes AKA lead poisoning' in front of it. I may have to borrow it.

I am glad I am not part of the emergency rescue crews in Turkey it has been hot there as well.

I went to our local community college again to add a class, ART-483 Web Graphic Design. Naturally the entire college computer system was down again, they did a huge cut-over to a new admissions system and Y2K upgrade in July and are still debugging the inevitable problems. Monday is the next time they promise all will be well again, back I go with all my certificates and transcripts...

I hit The Doctor's page today. Taylor, I shouted you have to come see this Pournelle has a bottle bobbing around for his new email icon! She came over and started giggling, I like she said. So I get no respect even in my own house from my own wife. Oh well, life is hard then you die.

PS: I hate the bottle even more than the blimp.

Robert Rudzki
rasterho@pacbell.net
http://home.pacbell.net/rasterho
"If the 1st Amendment applies to the all the States, why doesn't the 2nd...?"

I must admit that I don't understand why you bother to read Dr. Pournelle's page if it annoys you so much. Why not just say no? It seems to me that you'd save yourself a lot of aggravation.

 


 

 

 

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Sunday, 22 August 1999

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Okay, I spent quite a bit of time yesterday reading and responding to mail from people who typically said something like, "It's your page, but I'd really appreciate it if you'd stop posting Rudzki's Rants." As a matter of fact, the sentiment was unanimous, which is very unusual for anything around here. Although I agree with very little of what Mr. Rudzki has to say, which I think I've made clear, I've continued to post his messages because (a) he took the time to write them, (b) some of what he has to say is interesting in a different kind of way, and (c) I don't believe in censoring what people say or think. But this is my page, and my readers are telling me they've had enough. So, from this day forward, I will no longer post any messages from Mr. Rudzki. Those who would like to read what Mr. Rudzki has to say can read his own web page.

* * * * *

Intel slashes prices tomorrow. The Pentium III/600 remains at $700 in quantity 1,000, but the Pentium III/550 has dropped to $490, and the Pentium III/500 to $255. Most impressive, the Pentium III/450 has dropped to $187, which puts it in the Celeron class in terms of bang-for-the-buck. In another way of looking at it, the 600 costs $1.17/MHz; the 550 $0.89; the 500 $0.51; and the Pentium III/450 only $0.42. That means you can put together a dual Pentium III/450 system for less money than a single Pentium III/550 system, even considering the additional cost of the dual-CPU motherboard. I know which one I'd rather have. A $175 EPoX KP6-BS and a couple of $187 Pentium III/450 CPUs forms the foundation of an inexpensive system that will blow the doors off any of the $2,500 systems that Dell or Gateway sells.

* * * * *

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

I'll tell you how the computer has changed the way I work. For every project, I used to have 2 full-time assistants and part of a secretary. Nowadays, for every project, I've got one assistant 3 days before taping, and maybe part-time during editing.

The work load hasn't changed; I'm just doing a LOT more of it by myself.

I don't know where these low productivity figures come from. When fewer people are turning out the same amount of work in the same period of time, I would think that meant an increase in productivity.

And I haven't met anybody in any line of work that didn't think computers were being used to get them to crank out more work in the same period of time, not to ease their load and reduce the work week, as was the promise.

Exactly. And for nearly any other information handling endeavor, computers have been of equal benefit. And as for why you're getting more work done and overall productivity isn't increasing, it's because those who would otherwise be doing useful work are in fact doing government-mandated busy-work instead, whether on or off the government payroll. That and people who do little or no useful work but continue to draw a paycheck.

 

 

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