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Daynotes Journal

Week of 6 September 1999

Sunday, 12 September 1999 10:52

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, 6 September 1999

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It's Labor Day in the US, and we're treating today as a kind of holiday, although we'll still do some work. I'll go ahead and post this this morning, but I'll be back to posting in the evening starting tomorrow.

* * * * *

That maniac Anand (when does he sleep?) has posted an article that compares every available AMD K6-*, Celeron, Pentium II, Pentium III, and Athlon processor running various benchmarks under Windows 98 and Windows NT. Anand has a strong anti-Pentium III / pro-Athlon bias, as his casual discarding of SSE-optimized benchmark results makes clear (Quote: "If you ignore the Pentium III's performance, the benchmark grows in usefulness."), but the comparison is interesting nonetheless. Although it's impossible to draw any overall conclusions about which is the "best" processor from this article, it's pretty clear that the Celeron is still the bang-for-the-buck champion by a large margin.

But the recent price cuts on the slower Pentium III CPUs (and the fact that they'll be dropping even further in the next couple of weeks) makes the 450 MHz Pentium III a real alternative for those who will be running a lot of SSE-optimized applications. For this reason, we're still recommending that those who are considering buying a new motherboard go with Slot 1. That allows you to use an inexpensive Socket 370 Celeron in a Slocket for now, while leaving open the possibility of upgrading later to a Slot 1 Pentium III.

* * * * *

This from Paul S R Chisholm psrchisholm@yahoo.com:

(If you post this to your Web page, please attribute it to: Paul S R Chisholm <psrchisholm@yahoo.com> instead of the From: address this message was sent from.)

At 10:01 PM 9/3/99 -0400, Robert Bruce Thompson wrote:

Thanks. This time, at least, I was able to get Office 97, SR1 and SR2a installed successfully. I think I'll let sleeping dogs lie for now, because I hope that Office won't be on my systems much longer. If StarOffice works out, that could happen sooner than I think.

I wish you the very best of luck, of course. For the price of an 800 number call, though, you'd have additional backup.

I'll be fascinated in how well applications (StarOffice, WordPerfect) that can read Office 97 files do with Office 2000 files. If there are more problems ... well, malice or stupidity?

>Paul S. R. Chisholm <psrchisholm@yahoo.com> writes:

Please use this e-mail address I enclosed in the message, not the e-mail address I sent this from, on your Web page? (Thought I was explicit enough, but I'll be more clear about it in the future.) --PSRC

Thanks. Although I haven't done a lot of testing yet, Start Office 5.1 appears to open and save Word 2000 and Excel 2000 files just fine. As far as addresses, I apologize if I used the incorrect one. I get a *lot* of mail, and when I'm processing it on the run I sometimes miss requests for me to use a different address. I usually pull the address off the header, so unless you have a sentence at the top that specifically requests me to use a different address, I may miss it.

The other thing, of course, is that you'll have to explicitly request that I use a different address on a message-by-message basis. I've been taken to task by a couple of readers for using their real address on a message that didn't request otherwise because they'd previously requested that I not publish their addresses. Unfortunately, there's no way I can remember preferences for specific readers, so if you want to be anonymous or have me use a different address, please remind me with each message you send.

* * * * *

This from Tom Syroid [tsyroid@home.com]:

Good morning my friend... Just a few comments for your pile. If I can't find my desk, there's no reason you should be able to see yours either <g>.

I concur with your views of SO. It is useable and stable. I like stable right now. And as far as thin-clients go, well... it's the new (old) hot topic du jour. The same old arguments apply. But Sun have pushed the thin-client schema for years now, and they have a new toy to play with in the form of SO. Gates and company can't let them piss away valuable time and resources alone, so now they too are planning a server-side version of Office. Now if you ask me, they would do well to invest that time and energy into fixing the crap they already have out on the market, but I haven't heard personally from Mr. Gates in a while so I suspect he's lost interest in my opinion.

I am also fast coming to the conclusion that Linux could indeed be another workable solution to all this MS-Foolishness. Things went slow yesterday as I had to work with several Linux book spread open on my desk, but with a total time investment of just over four hours (and remember that an hour of this was a second install I did because I didn't know the config file to edit or how to do it) I have a working Linux system on my desk, complete with StarOffice installed. I'm very impressed with the level of control I have. I miss my scroll mouse, but I was delighted to find yesterday that SO supported it within their suite. And apparently, the next kernel out is supposted to support wheel mice at the OS level. It's going to be a steep learning curve for me, but I think a worthy one.

And really, when you thing about it, we both need a solid word processor -- but not necessary support for the styles we use. You do need to be able to save your work into a format that Word understands, but SO already handles this nicely. Do your wordcraft under SO on Linux, keep the structure and format simple, then pull the file onto a box running Windows/Office and do your style formats there. I don't know about you, but the chapters I write are 99% words and ideas, and 1% O'Reilly styles.

Finally, welcome back to the SCSI fold <g>. As you know, I've been a big fan of SCSI for years. While I agree with Francisco's comments about the premium on the HD front, I was interested to read your "apples to apples" comparison. Well done. I was also a bit taken back when you quoted under $300 US for a 9.1 Seagate Barracuda. I'm obviously out of touch on current SCSI HD prices. This is especially pertinent to my current situation, as I will soon be at that grand and glorious threshold next week where I start to get squeezed for HD space -- I need to repartition for two separate OS installations, plus have a partition for data.... Now where DID that 10 GB's go? Where, pray tell, did you see a 9 GB Barracuda for "just under $300"?

Cheers, /tom

tom syroid
tsyroid@home.com
http://members.home.net/the.syroids/

Well, you have more experience with StarOffice than I do, but it's good to hear that you haven't run into any show-stoppers yet. I haven't played with Styles in SO, but I did import the styles from Office as you suggested. It appears that they can be applied from the drop-down list in the upper left corner. If so, that's all I need.

As far as the SCSI hard drive prices, I just went over to KillerApp, listed the top 100 hard drives, and looked for Seagate models. It's true that I just used the lowest price listed for each drive (where if I were really buying a drive I'd check prices from vendors I know and trust), but I figured that was a reasonable comparison. I think the Barracuda was listed for $293 and change.

* * * * *

This from Fred Mora [fmora at ibm dot net]:

I'm at the point where I would love to abandon Microsoft operating systems and applications. Realistically, I can't do that. I simply don't have time to learn all new tools.

Bruce,

The eight hours you wasted on repairing MS-induced damages would have gotten you half the way through a "Unix for dummies" book. As for learning LaTeX, that was actually faster than learning to use the thrice-accursed style definition features in MS Word. Especially since you don't have to mess up the standard LaTeX with a French typography definition file, because you are writing a US book.

If LaTeX strikes you as a bit extreme, I urge you to consider StarOffice. I believe that Sun will keep a stand-alone version floatting around. The thin-client stuff will be an add-on. For instance, IBM has both a full-fledged terminal emulator and a thin-client, Java-base emulator called "Host On Demand".

Evaluate carefully this time investment, Bruce, and remember the old fable about the poor starving lumberjack who was so busy chopping wood that he couldn't "realistically" take the time to sharpen his tools. He died doing his best with bad tools.

Hoping you will be wiser, :-)

--Fred Mora

Well, yes and no. No doubt I could have gotten started after eight hours, but I have years of experience with Windows NT. Getting to the same level with Linux would take me more years, and getting to what I consider minimum acceptable competence would certainly take months at least. I hope you're correct about StarOffice continuing to be available as a "fat client". I'd hate to make the effort to switch only to find that it had been mutated into a thin client.

* * * * *

This from J.H. Ricketson [culam@neteze.com]:

I seem to recall you stating that the chapter on Optical Storage had been completed, then followed a list of topics none of which seemed to relate to magneto-optical storage. IMO, if true, this is a shortcoming. MO storage is a valuable & integral part of my system & process. Among other things, I use it to copy, (not backup - COPY) in minutes, what would take hours for tape backup. It is cost competitive My Fujitsu 1.3 GB GigaMO cost about US$400, and the media cost from US$24 - US$30 in 5-pack quantity. It is at least as bulletproof as a 3.5" floopy, plus being immune to magnetic fields. I once put a refrigerator magnet on the cartridge slide, left it overnight, removed it, inserted the cartridge and read it. No problem. I believe Dr. Pournelle uses a 640MB DynaMO MO drive. "Good Enough" for me!

Some URLs for further info:

Pix & product info on GigaMO drive.

Glossary & info on all kinds of optical storage.

Product description & info on Maxoptics (Maxtor) new 5.2GB MO drive.

Price listing for MO from one vendor.

An even more comprehensive price listing.

Lists Maxoptics T-5200 & media prices.

Hope this gives you something to think about in all your spare time.

Regards,

JHR --

culam@dnai.com [J.H. Ricketson in San Pablo]

You are correct that I'm not covering MO in the Nutshell hardware book, although Pournelle and I will probably cover it in our big hardware book. For Nutshell, that's a matter of available space more so than any bias I have against MO. MO is and always has been a niche technology, although I grant that there are applications where it makes sense. But CD-R(W) has hurt MO, and DVD-RAM/+RW are going to hurt it worse. I don't necessarily think that MO will go away entirely, but I think large writable CD/DVD optical and products like the Castlewood ORB are going to turn traditional MO into even more of a niche product.

* * * * *

This from Brian Bilbrey [bilbrey@pacbell.net]:

I have followed your travails in attempting to get site search capablilities up for www.jerrypournelle.com. I am preparing to do some developement for a new website, and was spelunking the web to find ways to set up search that don't involve FP extensions, having learned from watching YOUR hands get burnt time and again. I found a solution which works - a set of perl scripts, free, available from

http://perlfect.com/freescripts/search/

I installed and implemented these in about 15 minutes on my Linux box - you can see the results by trying the search feature on my index page at

http://216.102.91.55

these include the indexing script, the search script, a template for the html output (dynamically generated by the script), a conf file for dis-including sections of the playground from indexing (such as subscriber only areas), etc, etc.

They scripts want perl 5.04 or better, but most ISP's are up to date on such things, and I presume Pair is no different.

-- regards,
Brian Bilbrey
bilbrey@pacbell.net

Thanks. My current account at pair does not permit running custom scripts, although Jerry's does. I've been using the Thunderstone search engine, which works fine for my site. When we attempted to index Pournelle's site, the Thunderstone engine returned an error saying that the site was too large, so Pournelle definitely needs an alternative. Paul Robichaux sent me mail a week or two back that mentioned the atomz.com site, which I may check out for my own site. But your scripts may well be an alternative for Jerry.

 


 

 

 

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Tuesday, 7 September 1999

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Watching the U.S. Open yesterday, the same question came to mind as does every year. What happened to the score "40-all"? For those not familiar with tennis scoring, the point score in a game proceeds as follows: No points = Love (probably from the French l'oeuf, or "the egg"); the first point is 15; the second 30, the third 40; and the fourth wins the game. Unless, that is, the opponent has also scored points. In the case of a tied point score, the scores used to be called 15-all, 30-all, and 40-all. Once 40-all was reached, the opponent who won the next point was referred to as having the advantage. If the player with the advantage lost the following point, the score was called "deuce."

But somewhere along the line, the score 40-all stopped being used. Everyone, including the official scoring system, now refers to a game tied at three points each as "deuce." A deuce can only follow an ad, so that isn't right, unless they've officially changed the scoring nomenclature while I wasn't looking. Granted, I last played serious tennis in the late 60's and early 70's, but surely I would have noticed such an earth-shaking change. I notice that the official rules of paddle tennis still list 40-all. So what happened to 40-all in tennis?

* * * * *

A couple of readers commented that the picture I posted earlier of Gypsie, the 10-week old Border Collie pup we're temporarily hosting, resembles a full-grown dog. For those readers, here is a (slightly blurred) picture of Duncan and Gypsie together. Duncan is our 4.5 year old male Border Collie. Although he's technically medium-size (it says so on his papers), he's definitely on the large end of medium. He weighs about 65 pounds, and towers over all the other Border Collies at Flyball practice. Gypsie will probably grow up to weigh about 35 pounds, and will probably be about 4 inches (10 cm) shorter than Duncan.

* * * * *

This from Tom Syroid [tsyroid@home.com]:

Quick question... As you know from my pages, I have a HD here that has some bad sectors on it that prevented me from loading Win98 on it last week (Quantum 1.2G). Do you know of a HD utility I can perhaps DL from the net that might help me resurrect this drive (that is, run from a boot disk, scan the drive, and mark the bad sectors so a format program doesn't try to access them)?

/tom

tom syroid
tsyroid@home.com
http://members.home.net/the.syroids/

You probably already have what you need. Many SCSI host adapters have firmware utility suites that include a low-level format program. Run that program, and select detailed surface scan if the option is offered. If there is no format option in firmware, check the host adapter manufacturer's web site for a standalone format/maintenance utility. Alternatively, check the Quantum web site. Every hard disk maker provides low-level maintenance utilities, which are often a custom verion of Disk Manager. Again, run the utility, do a low-level format with detailed surface scan, and enable error remapping if that's an option.

Be aware that it's extremely unusual for modern hard drives to start developing bad sectors unless they're very near failing, so any repair you do may be a temporary measure at best. However, the good news is that if you originally low-level formatted the drive under one brand of host adapter and didn't subsequently reformat it when you moved it to the current host adapter, the drive itself may be fine and the problems due simply to the change from one host adapter to another.

* * * * *

This from J.H. Ricketson [culam@neteze.com]:

I agree completely re DVD. It is THE coming technology, until Keele effect storage is feasible. However, IMO, we are now experiencing a Beta-vs.-VHS war, only with more players, among the various DVD flavors. Until a Standard finally emerges I, for one, do not wish to have an investment in a dead technology. I do not see a universally accepted standard happening any time soon. Meanwhile, MO with its considerably more rugged media is not going to be standing still. They're hard at work on blue lasers too.

Regards,

JHR

Actually, DVD-ROM is dead standard at this point. The standards problem you mention arises because of competing writable DVD standards, and there may be fewer competitors than you think. DVD-R and DVD-RW are niche products, and are likely to remain so. The drives are currently selling in the $5,000 to $15,000 range, and are unlikely to get much cheaper. DVD-R disks (write-once) cost $40 to $50 per disc, and again that's not likely to drop all that much any time soon. DVD-R(W) is primarily used for DVD mastering and is unlikely to become a mainstream technology. NEC's MMVF has some advantages for video, but does not have widespread support in the industry.

The real competition is between DVD-RAM and +RW. The market will almost certainly choose a winner from those two standards, and DVD-RAM has some very significant advantages. DVD-RAM is an official standard of the DVD Forum, which +RW is not. DVD-RAM has actually been shipping for more than a year now. You can actually go out and buy a DVD-RAM drive today, and it uses $18 to $30 rewritable cartridges. +RW is allegedly sampling now, although I don't see any evidence of that. I have a DVD-RAM drive sitting on my desk, but I can't get a +RW drive for love or money.

That one-year advantage out of the starting gate may not be as much as an advantage as it first appears, though, because DVD-RAM has not sold a lot of units. But it does mean that DVD-RAM has had a year to debug and improve, so first-generation +RW drives will be competing against second- and third-generation DVD-RAM drives. The one major advantage that the +RW camp claims over DVD-RAM is higher capacity, but that won't last long. Although I'm under NDA, I think I can safely say that you can expect to see a new generation of DVD-RAM drives this fall that will boost single-side capacities from about 2.6 GB to about 4.7 GB.

One DVD compatibility issue that is seldom mentioned is DVD-ROM drive read compatibility for writable DVD media. Most current DVD-ROM drives won't read any sort of writable DVD media. But note that the DVD-RAM camp (Hitachi, Matsushita/Panasonic, and Toshiba) manufactures the vast majority of DVD-ROM drives sold. At least one of those has already added support for reading DVD-RAM media in their latest DVD-ROM drives, and the others are likely to do the same. And, although the +RW camp (HP and Sony) say that only "minor changes" are needed to allow DVD-ROM drives to read +RW media, the chances are good that the DVD-RAM camp will not add +RW read compatibility to their drives..

So, although the market will determine the winner between DVD-RAM and +RW, and although my guess is that that winner won't be determined until perhaps mid- to late-2000, I'd bet my money on DVD-RAM.

* * * * *

This from Paul Robichaux [paul@robichaux.net] regarding the recent to-do about possible back doors in Microsoft encryption:

I've always wondered why anyone pays attention to the US export restrictions on encryption anyway. It seems to me that by this time there should be open source encryption products originating outside the US (perhaps based on earlier PGP). That'd blow the whole US anti-encryption effort out of the water.

Well, yes and no. The US is still the largest market for shrink-wrapped products, but vendors like MS, Lotus, and Netscape want to be able to sell one code base here and overseas. One solution is to do what Qualcomm did with Eudora-- support a plugin architecture, then let the aftermarket vendors sell crypto. Another is to make a quid pro quo deal with the NSA, which is apparently what MS did. In order to get export approval for their CryptoAPI scheme, they had to do something-- we just don't know what tat they had to promise for their tit.

You can get an open-source version of PGP that's identical to what NAI sells-- they publish the source code, then enterprising hackers overseas import it, scan and OCR it, and compile the results. Completely legal, providing you trust the overseas guys not to fiddle the crypto. It hasn't really caught on, though, because the crypto-for-personal-privacy crowd doesn't trust that approach and the crypto-in-the-network bunch by and large would rather buy canned products from Cisco or whoever.

There are several instances of overseas companies building and selling crypto products worldwide. For example, Baltimore Technologies is based in Ireland. They make a not-too-bad S/MIME client that they can, and do, sell everywhere. Meanwhile, US competitors can only sell reduced-strength versions outside the US. Net effect: lost revenue for US companies and no increase in "national security".

I'll quit now; as a crypo programmer I could go on about this all day but I have a column due tomorrow.

Cheers, -Paul -- Paul Robichaux, MCSE | paul@robichaux.net | http://www.robichaux.net
Robichaux & Associates: programming, writing, teaching, consulting

I'll bow to your superior knowledge of the topic. But I'm surprised that open source isn't the standard for encryption products. I thought that the standard method used to ensure the robustness of an encryption algorithm or program was to make the source publicly available. That would also obviously make it impossible to conceal a back door in the product.

* * * * *

This from Fred Mora [fmora at ibm dot net]:

Well, yes and no. No doubt I could have gotten started after eight hours, but I have years of experience with Windows NT. Getting to the same level with Linux would take me more years, and getting to what I consider minimum acceptable competence would certainly take months at least. I hope you're correct about StarOffice continuing to be available as a "fat client". I'd hate to make the effort to switch only to find that it had been mutated into a thin client.

I'm positive, since you could always use the current non-networked version! (The Linux version is remarkably stable in spite of my amateurish manipulations).

Reflecting on what you said about the need for guidance, do you think there would be a market for a book about "Linux for Writers" explaining how to get started in Linux and how to seutp a productive writing environment?

Okay, I didn't realize that there was any guarantee that Sun would continue to make a non-networked version available.

As far as your book idea, I think not. It's a good idea to focus a book on a specific market, but that's a bit too specific. However, I think a book on implementing Linux and Linux applications as a replacement for Windows and Office might do quite well.

* * * * *

This from Paul S R Chisholm psrchisholm@yahoo.com:

Saw the recommendation for some Perl scripts (for Web site indexing, I believe). A couple of thoughts.

First, if your Web server host simply mirrors what you create on your PC, you could index on your PC and upload the index.

Second, I have please pleasantly astonished at how well the ActiveState port of Perl works under NT (and presumably 95/98). Not all Perl scripts written for Unix will work under Microsoft Windows, but many will. Perl can be used for writing incomprehensible software, but it can also be used to write well structured, maintainable, readable code. The ActiveState port (found at http://www.activestate.com) is part of the mainstream Perl project, and still free software. --PSRC

Thanks. I probably won't mess with scripts, simply because the www.atomz.com site that Paul Robichaux mentioned appears to do everything I need to do as far as searching, and does it simply. Right now, I'm still using the similar Thunderstone search service, but I'll probably convert over to the Atomz service in the next couple of weeks.

* * * * *

This from Paul Robichaux [paul@robichaux.net]:

Oh, I believe that Microsoft *thinks* there aren't any backdoors, but compared to the NSA, Microsoft is a big, friendly puppydog. It wouldn't surprise me a bit to find that NSA had programmers operating undercover within Microsoft, and it wouldn't surprise me a bit to find that backdoors do in fact exist.

The NSA's MO has always been to 'suggest' changes without explaining the rationale. For example, when IBM was designing Lucifer (which became DES), the NSA 'suggested' particular values for the S-boxes. No one knew what was special about those values until fairly recently, when differential cryptanalysis was independently rediscovered. The NSA knew about that class of attack and provided IBM some S-box values that were resistant to it.

I wouldn't have been surprised to learn that the NSA had 'suggested' to Microsoft some alterations in their design, probably involving their PRNG or key storage formats, to make things easier for NSA, but as Bruce Schneier points out, asking MS to add in a second NSA key doesn't jibe with their past history. It would be too obvious to people inside MS and too likely that the beans would get spilled.

Cheers, -Paul

--

Paul Robichaux, MCSE | paul@robichaux.net | http://www.robichaux.net
Robichaux & Associates: programming, writing, teaching, consulting

Okay. That makes sense. Thanks.

* * * * *

Another from Paul Robichaux [paul@robichaux.net]:

I thought that the standard method used to ensure the robustness of an encryption algorithm or program was to make the source publicly available. That would also obviously make it impossible to conceal a back door in the product.

Well, yes and no. Revealing the algorithm is the standard method of assuring the quality of an algorithm-- but there's many a slip 'twixt algorithm and executable code. Open-sourcing the actual crypto code would make it possible to verify that there weren't any backdoors in the crypto code, but to get real assurance you'd have to open-source all the software on the machine. For example, you can easily install an event hook on W98 or the Mac OS that can watch all events in the event queue. I could easily write such a filter configured to look for the PGP passphrase dialog, then snatch the password. If I embed the filter in some useful but innocuous piece of software (or somewhere inside the mass of DLLs bundled with every Microsoft product), open-source crypto won't help you since I can steal the passphrase at the same time the crypto software gets it.

There are solutions to this problem too, but most of them are like putting a Medeco lock and solid-steel door on a mobile home-- if the front door is stronger than the rest of the house, you haven't gained any measure of security.

Cheers,

-Paul

--

Paul Robichaux, MCSE | paul@robichaux.net | http://www.robichaux.net
Robichaux & Associates: programming, writing, teaching, consulting

Well, you obviously know a whole lot more about this subject than I do, so I'll just shut up now. But that does explain my question about why open-source encryption isn't the way things are done...

* * * * *

Still another from Paul Robichaux [paul@robichaux.net]:

You might know the answer to this, or maybe another of your readers will:

So here's a question that was bugging me this morning as I walked around the Botanical Garden: where can I buy a 4U or 5U box that I can fill with an AT or ATX mobo, power supply, etc.? I'm moving to new quarters in a month or so and would love to have One Big Rack instead of a bunch of scattered pizza boxes, towers, etc.

Cheers,
-Paul

--
Paul Robichaux, MCSE | paul@robichaux.net | http://www.robichaux.net
Robichaux & Associates: programming, writing, teaching, consulting

He might think he'd love One Big Rack until he prices components for it. He can find rack mountable PC chassis (chasses?) at just about any vendor who specializes in network gear, but the prices are outrageous. The last time I looked, a high-quality unpopulated chassis with power supply ran upwards of $500, and if you want redundant power it's easy to spend a couple of grand without having anything but a chassis and power supplies. I had thought that PC Power & Cooling sold RM stuff, but I didn't see any when I did a quick check of their web site.

* * * * *

This from J.H. Ricketson [culam@neteze.com]:

Thanks much for your very enlightening discourse on the various facets & aspects of DVD. I'm sold. My next upgrade will be to DVD. FWIW, Creative sells a DVD-RAM ext. drive for US$499.99, and 5.2GB (doublesided) media for US$199.95 per 5-pack at: Not too shabby on a per-megabyte basis. One remaining question is speed - My experience with MO is that it is fast enough to run applications, if necessary, or run apps that are space hogs but not speed-critical (I keep Eudora on an MO cartridge.) Will I be able to do this with DVD?

Another question - Are DVD media encapsulated in a cartridge, or are they bare to a very hostile world, as CD-ROM disks are?

TIA, and regards,

JHR

DVD-ROM drives provide CD-ROM-like throughput. A 1X DVD corresponds roughly to a 9X CD-ROM. That might make it seem as though a 6X DVD would run CD-ROMs at 54X, but in reality DVD-ROM drives top out at about 36X or 40X max when reading CDs. That's certainly adequate throughput--up to about 6 MB/s. The problem, as with CD-ROM drives, is average access time.  New generation DVD-ROM drives typically provide ~150 ms average access when reading CDs, or about a tenth the speed of a hard disk. That's usable for running an application, particularly if the app is loaded and cached, but it isn't going to be very fast for apps that frequently hit the source drive. MO has an advantage in this respect.

As far as packaging, DVD-RAM media comes in two types, single-sided (2.6 GB) and double-sided (5.2 GB). There are also two types of cartridge, one in which the media is fixed and one in which it is removable. The DS media come only in fixed cartridges. The SS media come in either type of cartridge. The advantage to the removable media is that you can record a DVD-RAM disc and then remove it from its cartridge to play it in a standard DVD player (if that player can read DVD-RAM discs, which most can't). The disadvantage is that once you have removed the media from the cartridge, it probably won't ever be writable-to again.

Incidentally, the +RW camp actually presents the fact that +RW media do not use a cartridge as an advantage. They point out that bare media will be cheaper, and that they will be able to fit DVD players and DVD drives in notebook computers. Still, on balance, as you say, the advantages of cartridge-based media outweighs the few advantages of bare media. And, as the DVD-RAM camp points out, CDs are the only high-capacity media that do not use a cartridge, and there's probably good reason for that.

As far as buying a DVD-RAM drive, my advice would be to wait for at least a couple of months. The main DVD-RAM players are likely to be releasing a new generation of DVD-RAM drives that will have some very nice additional features. I can't say more right now because of NDAs, but I'd wait if I were you.

 


 

 

 

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Wednesday, 8 September 1999

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Early update today. Barbara is cleaning house, and I can't get much real work done anyway until she finishes. I'll go back to the evening update schedule tomorrow.

* * * * *

I sporadically receive comments from readers who are unable to retrieve the most current version of my journal page even when they Reload or Refresh. This doesn't happen often (or at least I don't hear about it often), but I've seen it happen myself, although not on my own web site. I've established to my satisfaction that the problem is not with pair networks or my server, so the only thing I can conclude is that some ISPs cache content and do not honor Reload or Refresh as a request to retrieve the document from the actual server.

When I was looking at Ars Technica the other day, I noticed that their main page refreshed automatically, which it didn't used to do. Scanning the sourse for their page, I noticed a new line:

<meta http-equiv="pragma" content="no-cache">

The purpose of that was pretty obvious. In their case, I suspect the reason for adding it is to force page reads to increase their ad revenues. But it's an equally good solution for my problem. Thinking about how my readers likely use my site, I concluded that the typical reader calls up my page and then clicks Refresh. In looking at my web stats, I found that only about 15% of my page reads showed the status "Not modified since last retrieval"  (as compared, for example, to Pournelle's site, which shows that status for about 40% of page reads) So, unless I'm missing something, there's really not much downside to forcing a refresh. I've added that code to my index page and daily journal page. I'm not even sure if the "no-cache" tag will be honored by ISP caches, or if its effect is limited to local browser caches.

Please let me know if there's something I haven't considered or if this change causes a problem.

* * * * *

Barbara is preparing this week to leave on a bus tour with her sister and parents on Saturday. That means I can have wild women and parties for a week or so. Either that or just work all the time.

We talked about photos, and she's decided to take a couple of 35mm bodies with her and just shoot conventional color negative film. When she gets prints back, we'll scan them. At 1,200 dpi resolution and 36-bit color depth, that'll generate a 150 MB uncompressed data file from each 4X6" (10X15 cm) print. It'll be interesting to see what final file sizes PNG or one of the other lossless compression methods will yield.

* * * * *

This from tech_refresh@frontiercorp.com:

Greetings, sir!

I followed a link to your site from Jerry Pournelle's mail page. I'd love to look at your site in depth, but I'm using Netscape on a notebook with an 800x600 screen, and your site seems to require 1024 resolution to keep from scrolling back and forth to read every line. Ouch. How 'bout making it more accessible? I enjoy reading your input on Dr. Pournelle's site, but I can't read your site, unless I download the site and look at in Word or something.

Peace

Peter Moore
pmoore@entrecs.com

Thanks. I wasn't aware of the problem. It's not Netscape causing the problem. I just checked the last several weeks in IE4 on a system that runs 800X600. Some had the horizontal scrolling problem, and some didn't. When I've seen that problem in the past, it was invariably due to a long URL line or a bunch of nested blockquotes. Unfortunately, my pages are very long and I don't know of an easy way to find the offending line(s). When this has happened in the past, I've used Notepad to view the source, scrolled over to the right and looked for "long" lines. But I use a lot of embedded links, so many of the lines that appear "long" really aren't. Finding, fixing, and testing the fixes for the offending line(s) can easily take several minutes per page, and I simply don't have time to do that.

Perhaps someone who knows more about HTML and FrontPage can suggest a fix. I seem to remember that I could force a wrap by making my page tables three cells wide (adding a one pixel wide cell to my table structure on the right). But I think I tried doing that once and gave up on it for some reason I don't remember. Perhaps one of my readers will have a good fix for this.

* * * * *

This from Paul Robichaux [paul@robichaux.net]:

He might think he'd love One Big Rack until he prices components for it.

Darn. Actually, I was the questioner; I'm moving down the hall, and as part of the move I'm a) wiring the rest of the house with Cat-5 and b) trying to consolidate the machines I have to move into the new room. I thought a rack would be the solution, but at those prices I don't see it happening. Thanks for the info.

Cheers,
-Paul

--
Paul Robichaux, MCSE | paul@robichaux.net | http://www.robichaux.net
Robichaux & Associates: programming, writing, teaching, consulting

Hmm. Your wife is more forgiving than mine. I showed Barbara a picture of a 19" rack one time, and she said "no way am I having that in my house." Actually, she was more emphatic than that.

As far as re-wiring, you might want to think about using Category 6 or Category 7 cable rather than Category 5. I haven't priced them lately, so I don't know how much of premium they sell for over Category 5, but you might as well get ready for Gigabit Ethernet.

* * * * *

This from Bo Leuf [bo@leuf.com]:

You explain that...

"In the case of a tied point score, the scores used to be called 15-all, 30-all, and 40-all. Once 40-all was reached, the opponent who won the next point was referred to as having the advantage. If the player with the advantage lost the following point, the score was called "deuce.""

I fear you either misrecall och misunderstood the calls -- I give you the relevant definition of "deuce" from the massive Oxford English Reference Dictionary is:

... 2 Tennis, the score of 40-all, at which two consecutive points are needed to win.

Which makes it a synonym for "40-all". And as for "advantage":

... 4 Tennis, the next point won after deuce.

What I suppose happens is that various people at various times use either 40-all or deuce, depending on their mood and habit.

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

No, I don't think I'm mis-remembering. In the late 60's, we had a very pedantic tennis coach. We players, of course, used barbaric abbreviations when calling the score during practices and matches ("five-all" instead of "fifteen-all", "ad-in" and "ad-out", etc.) One of things that drove the coach nuts was the fact that we called "deuce" when the score reached thirty-all. He carried around a little paperback pamphlet whose title was something like "USLTA Official Rules of Lawn Tennis". More than once, he showed me the section on scoring a game, and pointed out that "deuce" should not be called until an advantage had followed forty-all.

For all of that, he was a pretty good coach. He was the one that finally convinced me to stop trying swinging forehand topspin volleys from mid-court when my opponent hit a floater...

* * * * *

This followup from Bo Leuf [bo@leuf.com]:

Your recollection may not be a total net-serve after all. I dug a bit further and found it is also true that deuce is used in this sense:

(the first meaning synonymous with 40-all) "... also, a subsequent tie in a game in which deuce has occurred."

So it is possible to hear a "deuce" call several points after 40-all.

Thus "advantage" can also refer to the first point scored after the subsequent tie. 40-all = deuce, point (advantage), point by other player, new deuce, next point = advantage whoever. Advantage in = server scored, advantage out = receiver scored.

This from an older Webster (1968), so it is not a recent change. They tell us the rules for tesnnis have not changed for centuries.

The NCAA says this about the scoring rules for tennis:

-v- excerpt

"... Games are scored on the standard six-point, win by two format, with each point represented by scores of love, fifteen, thirty, forty and advantage. Games tied at forty are said to be at "deuce," and there is no limit to the number of deuce points possible in a game. Points after deuce are called advantage. Games tied at deuce can not end until a player scores two consecutive points from deuce.

Glossary of Tennis Terms

Advantage: The score that follows one point played beyond deuce.

Deuce: The formal term for a 40-40 score."

-x-

But again, note that the paragraph above follow the original definition in that you can have "deuce" in subsequent ties after an advantage point.

/ Bo

Yes, the question is not whether a tie score after eight or more points have been played is called "deuce." It is. The question is, what is the proper name for a score tied at three points all.

As far as the rules changing, I believe that they hadn't changed for centuries as of 1968. But they've certainly changed a great deal since 1968. Consider: sudden death (sets used to have to be won by two games, and I recall watching many matches with set scores of 18-16 or higher--it was a better game before VASSS. Nowadays, one can lose not just a set, but an entire match without once having one's serve broken); the rule on foot faults (formerly, your feet could not cross the plane of the baseline before you struck the serve. Now, one is permitted to leap into the court, so long as one's feet do not touch the surface of the court before the serve is struck); "Play shall be continuous" is no longer honored (vis-a-vis that recent hideous innovation, the "injury time-out"); all men's matches were formerly best of five sets, and now the vast majority are only best of three sets. And so on.

Things were better under the old rules, when tennis was played on grass--as it was intended to be--when everyone wore white (with only accents of maroon and navy permitted), when the balls were white, and when rackets were made of wood. I was probably born too late. The greatest player who ever picked up a racket, Big Bill Tilden, died on 6 June 1953, the same day I was born. I don't like what tennis has become.

* * * * *

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

Was quite interested to read Fred Mora's comments on LaTeX.

I know many of your readers are professional writers, but I'm surprised at how many writers have never even heard of the word processor I have used for about the last 15 years: XyWrite.

I still use it daily, but alas, it is no longer supported and apparently will succumb to Y2k issues, which the current owner says will not be corrected. This baby was/is fast--all functions instantaneous (and I mean that) on the 20mhz 386 where it was first introduced to me. As with HTML and--from Fred's remarks--LaTeX, it is all ASCII, hiding its own needs in much the same way HTML does. It was first developed as part of the Atex computer typesetting system which replaced linotype machines in newspapers and magazines back in the '70's. It was ported to DOS in the '80's, and to Windows in the early '90's.

For laying down words, I've never seen anything yet that beats it, but strangely, I've found that not even professional writers appear to me to be very demanding--I guess anything that beats pen on paper satisfies most. I want to be able to get it down as fast as I can think of it, and so far, only XyWrite does that for me. I couldn't live without it, as--unlike Word--things like search and replace can be done with ANY ASCII character(s), with or without verification, and most importantly, none of it's dialog boxes ever cover the text you're working on--an especially stupid and maddening feature of Word.

XyWrite functions are customizable and can also be hitched together through a "keyboard" file (every key on the entire keyboard can be rearranged if desired), and I have implemented keystrokes which instantly invert words, sentences, and paragraphs, instantly change case on any highlighted text, throw up a thesaurus without having to highlight any word, return a word count with one key, and others. It keeps a delete stack of ALL deletions--not just ones made by ctrl-X, like Word--which can be instantly accessed with one keystroke. As if that weren't enough, macros are in addition to that--and unlike most word processors, if you goof up while entering the macro, you don't have to start all over, you just go into the macro file and correct the mistake using plain text. You can also add to a macro without erasing the original.

When I've got projects that require writing, I simply refuse to do composing on the client's system. It makes me cringe to see people in offices using Word, et al in a manner that mostly approximates an old-fashioned typewriter.

I sure hope LaTeX may be a successor for me to XyWrite, as I don't have much time left, if Y2k really does do it in. I sure appreciate guys like Fred passing on what's out there, and your publishing of it.

But what really baffles me is how backwards much of today's software seems, compared to the last DOS version of most programs. Except for handling foreign currencies, my old Quicken 4 for DOS, c.1992, was considerably more helpful and flexible than my new Quicken99--with the added benefit that the older version didn't have to be registered to use it.

--Chuck Waggoner [waggoner at gis dot net]

I hadn't thought about XyWrite in years, although I used it for a couple of weeks at one point, probably a dozen years ago or more. I remember when most serious writers used XyWrite for its speed and power. I was using WordPerfect 4.1 or 4.2 then, and I was so used to it that I decided it wasn't worth making the change to XyWrite. I'm sorry to hear that Y2K will render it obsolete.

* * * * *

This from S.S.Ghosal [alpana@cal.vsnl.net.in]:

To: Mr. Robert Bruce Thompson
From: Soumya Shankar Ghosal

Respected Sir,

I am Soumya Shankar Ghosal a 19 year old from Calcutta, India. I am a student of Commerce (Bachelor in Commerce), and also undergoing courses in Computers at NIIT (Education Training partners of Microsoft). I have very recently launched my site on the net at http://soumya.indianet.org. This site is dedicated to deliver visitors up to date information of the IT Industry. This site is updated daily hour by hour with IT news around the Globe. May I have the pleasure to invite you to visit my small home on the Internet.

I would be grateful if you visit my site and let me know your comments/suggestions about the site.

Waiting eagerly for your reply,
Regards,
Soumya Shankar Ghosal
Email: alpana@cal.vsnl.net.in

Congratulations on your new site. I visited it this morning (I note that I was visitor number 95) and it appears that you've made a very good start. I'll check in periodically to watch it as it grows. Incidentally, although I am not a lawyer, I suggest that you post a stronger notice to protect your content, something like "Copyright 1999 by Soumya Shankar Ghosal. All Rights Reserved."

 


 

 

 

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Thursday, 9 September 1999

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Tomorrow is our wedding anniversary, which I've never forgotten thanks to PCs and calendaring software. We will have been married 16 years as of tomorrow, and have had surprisingly few problems during that time. Especially after I learned not to introduce Barbara to people as my "first wife". I thought people's reactions to that were interesting. She was not amused, however.

Come to think of it, I tried to convince her to get married early the following year instead of in September. I thought my argument made good sense, because the "marriage penalty" at that time meant that getting married in September ended up costing us something like $4,000 in additional income taxes. But Barbara wasn't swayed by that argument. Interestingly, every man I subsequently mentioned that idea to agreed with me, and every woman agreed with Barbara. But that's something I've never seen listed as a secondary sex characteristic.

* * * * *

And speaking of the Battle of the Sexes, I took a short break this afternoon and noticed that USA Network was televising the Mixed Doubles final. Mixed Doubles is interesting because the ability of the woman player almost always determines which side wins. Most people who don't play tennis seriously don't realize just how big the differences are between male and female players, and both the television commentators and the tennis establishment try to minimize those differences, as with the bogus speed-gun service speeds.

Consider that Richard Krajicek served 48 aces during his match last night, and only one of those was faster than Venus Williams's supposed fastest. Yeah, right. In fact, the speed of Krajicek's serve (or that of any other hard-serving man) is at least 50% faster than the fastest of the women servers. Back when the women were paid much less--as they should have been, since they played one less round and didn't draw nearly the paying crowds--no one made any bones about the vast differences between men and women on the court. But nowadays, Political Correctness and Marketing rule, and we're all supposed to pretend that there aren't any differences.

In fact, a good high-school boy player hits the ball much harder and covers the court much better than the best woman who's ever played. Chris Evert at her peak, for example, practiced with the Fort Lauderdale high school boys tennis team and lost most of her matches against them. In a serious Mixed Doubles match, both men spend all their time pounding on the opposing woman, and whichever woman does a better job of standing up to that pounding wins. In an ideal Mixed Doubles match, neither man will ever have an opportunity to strike the ball except when he is serving or returning serve. The closer a Mixed Doubles team can come to enforcing that ideal on their opponents, the more likely they are to win the match.

I used to play a lot of Mixed Doubles, and enjoyed it a great deal. The wonder was that the women we played with also seemed to enjoy it, although they spent most of their time trying to dodge cannonball serves, getting nailed at the net by hard, flat groundstrokes, or getting overheads shoved down their throats. I always figured that men enjoyed playing Mixed Doubles because it was the only venue in which it was not only acceptable but expected that they would behave aggressively toward women. Mad at your girlfriend? Take it out on the woman across the net. Just never, ever play a Mixed Doubles match with your wife or girlfriend on the other side of the net. You'll never live it down. I made that mistake just once, and ended up having to find a new girlfriend.

* * * * *

Barbara has been cleaning out filing cabinets downstairs, and has found quite a few interesting things, including many old photographs, some apparently dating from the 1880's, old documents, and so on. One of the things she found was a stock certificate from the Glass Casket Company (now there's a disturbing thought) of Altoona, Pennsylvania. Apparently, my grandfather bought $150 worth of shares in that company in 1919, which was serious money back then. She's researching the company, which will probably turn out to have disappeared many years ago. But we're hoping, of course, that it turned into Microsoft or something.

She doesn't want to handle old original documents any more than necessary, so she asked if I could scan them for her. On the More Is Better Theory, I did a scan this morning of the cover letter at 1200 dpi and True Color. That took about half an hour to do and turned into a 267 MB PNG file. Better, I suppose, than its uncompressed size of 394 MB.

I'm going to have to do some thinking about what resolution to scan her trip pictures at. I think I'll go with the highest optical resolution my scanner supports, True Color, and PNG compression. We'll see.

* * * * *

This from Bo Leuf [bo@leuf.net]:

Things were better under the old rules, when tennis was played on grass--as it was intended to be--when everyone wore white (with only accents of maroon and navy permitted), when the balls were white, and when rackets were made of wood.

Oh dear yes, there's no regard for style these days. In one way it shouldn't matter what you do, but the sine qua non is that whatever you do, you do it with *style*. Yellow tennis balls are so... so... *unstylish*. And so many of the rude young stars have been equally lacking in graces.

Ah well, I generally don't watch the games.

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

Yes, tennis has become completely commercialized, more's the pity. That was brought home to me last night when we were watching Serena Williams beating Monica Seles. The commentators announced the teams who had made the mixed doubles final. I'd never heard of any of the four players, and I doubt any of them has ever even qualified for a singles main draw. In the old days, the mixed doubles final would have been something like Rod Laver/Margaret Court versus John Newcombe/Evonne Goolagong. Nowadays, very few of the big-name singles players even play doubles, let alone mixed doubles. There was never any money in doubles or mixed doubles, but the players recognized that playing those events was part of their obligation to the fans. Now they can't even get the big names to play Davis Cup. They say that they want more money. As it is, they're being paid $100,000 per match, win or lose. As with other sports, big money, television, agents, and the whole commercial bit has ruined tennis.

* * * * *

This from Paul Robichaux [paul@robichaux.net]:

Hmm. Your wife is more forgiving than mine. I showed Barbara a picture of a 19" rack one time, and she said "no way am I having that in my house." Actually, she was more emphatic than that.

Arlene would probably prefer a big rack to the current mess. It's only going to get worse as I add machines, which I'm about to start doing at a rapid clip. A local ISP referred me to some other sources for 4U boxes, but they're all in the $400+ range, so I'm going to just stack 'em where I can.

As far as re-wiring, you might want to think about using Category 6 or Category 7 cable rather than Category 5.

Too late; I have 1000' of Cat5 in a box out in the garage. First thing I need to do is get a new hub for the house backbone, then start wiring drops in the rooms where I need 'em. Once that's done I can start moving equipment to my new room down the hall.

Cheers,
-Paul

--
Paul Robichaux, MCSE | paul@robichaux.net | http://www.robichaux.net
Robichaux & Associates: programming, writing, teaching, consulting

Well, there's no doubt that a rack organizes things, but I see Barbara's point. It is kind of industrial looking. As far as the Category 5, forget I said anything. I saw the other day that 1000BaseT over Category 5 is now a formal standard, so your new wiring will take you to at least 1000 Mbps in the future. Actually, perhaps more than that. In the same way that you can run 100 Mbps over Category 3 cable by using all four pairs, I suspect you'll be able to do the same for whatever comes after 1000BaseT on all four pairs of a Category 5.

* * * * *

This from centralsoft@ukonline.co.uk:

I noticed your comments published via the mail page on Jerry Pournelle's web site. I am a professional system developer and programmer specialising is designing and implementing OS/2 based systems.

http://www.electricscotland.com/centralsoft

I have like many others, been annoyed and inconvenienced by the lack of support for formats other than those of MS Office applications despite the fact that there are many Word Processing and Spreadsheet packages available which are easier to use and more reliable than those of MS Office. The Lotus Smartsuite is also available in native OS/2 form but has the same problem as just about every other package in reading the current MS Office file formats. I then heard comment about Star Office 5.1 and decided to download it. I discovered that the OS/2 version download was 93Mb and not 64Mb as indicated on their website but several hours later I found that it was well worth the effort. I am often sent documentation and spreadsheet files in MS Office 97/95 formats and I can now read and edit them from any OS/2 based workstation rather than have to maintain a dedicated Windows machine and all the problems that entails. I have now been enjoying the benefits of Star Office for several months. It's a superb program albeit slow to load at first as you are in effect loading a complete desktop environment and all the applications when loaded are cached so you need plenty of hard drive space and physical memory. Once running it is reasonably fast and easy to use despite being reliant on large sections of Java code. It has a few rough edges but every release seems to be better than before. That is definitely the way forward. Unfortunately the downside is that I will shortly be forced into putting a Windows machine on-line to deal with a project which needs additional development work and which was originally developed under NT. The development package environment requires Windows 95/98/NT to run, leaving me little choice. I have to say that I remain highly amused at the trials and tribulations of Jerry when using Windows to achieve a day's output when I work here day in-day out, with hardly a hiccup all year round under OS/2 and most of my clients enjoy a similar experience. I thought you might like to know that your opinion of Microsoft's performance and attitude to its customers is shared by at least one other person. I have made my thoughts known to Jerry on several occasions, but despite that he remains convinced that Windows is the solution for him. Personally I think if he moved to OS/2 and used Lotus products to design his web site pages he would have a far easier time. But then maybe very little to write about. Perhaps that saved time could be spent writing more informative articles about new products and ideas which I think would be an improvement when compared with his constant stream of Microsoft based complaints. I do however acknowledge that his highlighting some matters has made people more aware of pending problems than they otherwise might have been. Perhaps then, there is a compromise to be found somewhere in there. It will be interesting to see what he makes of the new Imac when he gets hold of one. I have some views on that too.

Regards,

Hugh
--
centralsoft@ukonline.co.uk

Actually, my problems have more to do with Microsoft applications than Microsoft operating systems. I've had relatively few problems with Windows NT 4 over the years (although I wouldn't use Windows 9X on a bet). Actually, it's ultimately the fault of the government. If they'd just left Microsoft alone, perhaps Microsoft wouldn't have felt compelled to make their browser an inherent part of the operating system. I think most of the problems come from that.

As far as OS/2, it's a dead product, so I can't see the wisdom of moving to it. Even IBM have abandoned OS/2. Infoworld says that IBM have announced that they plan to migrate all 250,000 of their systems to Windows 2000, which pretty much puts the final nail in the coffin of OS/2. Although I'd like to move to Linux simply because I don't like Microsoft, the reality is that I haven't time to learn Linux and anyway I have commitments to write two Windows 2000 books. So, I'm stuck with Microsoft operating systems for the foreseeable future, but that doesn't mean that I'm stuck with Microsoft applications.

* * * * *

This from Svenson Sjon [sjon@svenson.com]:

I think Netscape honours the meta line you added : <meta http-equiv="pragma" content="no-cache">

Unfortunately this means your page is not cached locally. Unfortunately because when I re sized the window the browser had to go out to the server to fetch the page again. Then I opened the source, to check if you had actually added that line, and again the page was fetched from the web. I am browsing at 34K and your page is rather large. Each action takes about 20 seconds. And re sizing while disconnected produces an error (server not found).

MSIE (4.0) ignores that line within a session but if I close Explorer and then reopen the site if fetched again from the server. This makes more sense then the Netscape interpretation.

I don't know how Opera handles the meta thing 'cause I don't have it installed on Miona.

Kind regards,
Svenson

Thanks. I'm glad to hear something honors that tag. Immediately after I uploaded my page yesterday, I tried calling it up in IE5. It didn't force a refresh the first time, of course, since it had the older version of the page in cache. I refreshed to load the new version with the no-cache tag, exited IE5, and started it up again. It re-displayed the new version of the page without forcing a refresh. I have no idea what's going on. I'd think it was something about the way I have my copy of IE5 configured, but that same copy does a forced refresh every time on the Ars Technica page. Perhaps one of my readers can tell me what I'm doing wrong.

* * * * *

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

I saw this on the Apple site

Apple is claiming a G3/4 with 256 Mb of ram running Mac OS X with Apache 1.3.4 can service 60 million hits per day?

My Mac 'experience' is somewhat dated and we never ran a Web server but this seems a bit excessive IMO.

Any recent Mac Server stories you can tell?

I understand Microsoft converted Hotmail.com to Windows NT when they first acquired it and promptly converted it back to FreeBSD when NT could not begin to handle 10 million + hits per day... I hear they don't even use their own version of DNS on their big sites but use a 3rd party solution since Microsoft's version of DNS is a bit non-standard.

Robert Rudzki
rasterho@pacbell.net
http://home.pacbell.net/rasterho
If the 1st Amendment applies to all the States what about the 2nd...?

Since Latin siglines are becoming popular on certain sites...

"Vidi, Vici, Veni"

I know nothing about Macs, but I agree that that claim seems a bit excessive. Tom's Hardware, for example, probably does much less than a tenth that amount of traffic, and it's running on about six Pentium III class servers at pair Networks. But then Apple is famous for making wildly exaggerated performance claims. Remember their ridiculous claims for the iMac?

* * * * *

This from Tom Syroid [tsyroid@home.com]:

[...]

And speaking of HD's, guess what happened to me yesterday afternoon? My Maxtor blew up. First production drive I've personally lost in 15 years. I came downstairs from getting a cup of coffee and my screen was full of unpleasantries and my drive was rattling like a banshee. I tried this and that, rebooted a couple times, but within 15 minutes it dead and gone. Along with all the work I had done since 7am. I guess I don't have to tell you how Ungood that was. Of course I do backups -- late at night before I go to bed. Why didn't I think of copying my work to the notebook throughout the day? Who would? (Well, other than me now...) The drive's only 3 months old.

It's going to take three or four days to replace, but the silver lining in this very dark cloud is the supplier whom I bought it from agreed to swap my dead drive for an U2 SCSI plus difference. He tells me he can get me an Atlas (which is Quantum I believe?) 9GB, 2MB cache drive for $450 CDN. Being as I paid $330 CDN for the DiamondMax, I thought that was a pretty good deal. Any comments or heads-up on the Atlas line?

I hate it when someone gets burned by a product I recommend. But then, in all fairness to Maxtor, it seems likely that you were just unlucky. I've been running several of those drives for months without any problems. If there were any widespread problems with them, I'm sure I would have heard about them by now.

As far as the Atlas, it is a Quantum model. I'm not very familiar with Quantum drives, particularly their SCSI models, but I did a quick check of their web site and found two Atlas models--the Atlas IV and the Atlas 10K. Checking KillerApp.com turned up some other models, incuding an Atlas III, which I assume are recently discontinued. The Atlas IV page shows that it's a 7,200 RPM 6.9 ms drive with several SCSI interface options, including the new 160 MB/s extensions to U2W. Just from reading the specs, it appears that the Atlas IV should be noticeably faster than the ATA Maxtor. As I recall, your EPoX motherboard has U2W SCSI, which would probably be the best choice.

* * * * *

This from Scott McIntyre [smcintyr@mail.com]:

The only issue I've seen with the "no-cache" option is that it really doesn't cache the page *at all*. So if you do something as simple as resize the window (in Netscape at least), it has to fetch the whole page from the server again. Not a big deal, but the page counts become somewhat inaccurate.

Thanks. It's clear to me from your and others' messages that Netscape and IE behave differently. I don't use Navigator for much other than checking page appearance occasionally, so I appreciate readers who use Nav letting me know about problems.

* * * * *

This from Jan Swijsen [qjsw@oce.nl]:

I am not sure but what I noticed is that Netscape writes a page to its cache the moment it retrieves it from the server. That is, when you look in the cache folder the page, with a silly name, appears while it loads in the browser. In MSIE the page doesn't show up in the cache until you leave the page, ex by going to another one. Apparently MSIE keeps it in memory until you leave that page. It needs more memory to do so but it loads pages faster. I just checked Ars Technica (of course using Netscape). If I re-size the window it doesn't rebuild correctly because there is an error in the HTML source. If you view the source with the source viewer of Netscape or with CuteHTML you get syntax colouring and then errors are easy to spot. They open a comment but never close it.

<script language="JavaScript">
<!C- hide
IE3 = ( ( navigator.userAgent.indexOf<A HREF="http://209.1...

Maybe that forces you to refresh. I checked again, using MSIE 4 this time. Re-sizing does not pose problems here and I don't have to refresh. When I checked the source from MSIE (starts notepad) I see that the script is different ! Opera reacts the same as MSIE. Probably they are using some form of active server pages. That could cause the difference in the included scripts and it could interact with caching.

Regards,
Svenson

Yes, at first I thought that my problems with IE5 not doing the forced refresh had to do with its settings, but that appears not be the case. I can't say I'm surprised at Netscape not handling the HTML error. People ding IE for not being compliant with various HTML issues, but the fact remains that I prefer my browser to do something rational when it encounters an HTML problem rather than simply blowing up.

* * * * *

This from Paul Robichaux [paul@robichaux.net]:

I noticed in this week's _InfoWorld_ that 802.3ab (or whatever) theoretically allows 1000Base-GX on Cat5. As a practical matter, though, I won't even bother with 100Base-T for a while yet, at least for the house backbone. My wife and son both have older NuBus Macs that I can't find 100Base-T cards for; later in the year I plan to replace both of them, but for now 10Base-T is plenty.

btw I note at Seybold that Jobs claimed Apple sold just over one million iMacs in their first 12 months, and that Apple has ~ 140K preorders for iBooks. The new PPC 7400 is a real piece of work; I wish I had an excuse to buy one, but my existing machine runs Word and IE fast enough for my needs.

Cheers,
-Paul
--
Paul Robichaux, MCSE | paul@robichaux.net | http://www.robichaux.net
Robichaux & Associates: programming, writing, teaching, consulting

I really can't see migrating to 1000BaseX anytime soon, either. I've just completed the migration to 100BaseT. The performance is noticeably higher than 10BaseT (perhaps twice as fast), but I think I'll be satisfied at 100 Mb/s for the next few years anyway. By that time, 1000BaseT will probably be selling at commodity prices. If I can run it over my existing Cat 5, I'll think about upgrading then. Otherwise, I'll just stick with 100BaseT. Incidentally, you do know that you can get an auto-sensing 10/100 hub that will allow you to run mixed 10 and 100 cards on one segment, right? Those hubs cost a bit more, because they're really two hubs in one case, with the 10 hub bridged to the 100 hub. But you'd mentioned having to buy a new hub, and I can't see buying a 10BaseT hub nowadays.

Incidentally, I notice on The Register that Apple may be backing off their position that G3s can't be upgraded to G4s. I don't know much about Apple, but my understanding is that the 1.0 ROMs would have allowed the processor upgrade, but Apple sneaked through a hack on the 1.1 ROMs that prevents G3 owners from upgrading a a G4 CPU. Apparently, the huge outcry has caused Apple to reconsider, and they may be releasing a 1.2 ROM that re-enables the CPU upgrade. I don't know if that affects you or not.

* * * * *

This from Tom Syroid [tsyroid@home.com]:

I hate it when that happens to me too, but it does happen. We're both aware of the phenomenal MTBF's that are a part of the current crop of drives. But it is a mean. That means some run for 10 years, and others run for 3 months. Shit happens. The timing on this one really sucks, though. That doesn't mean I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Maxtor though - they're good drives. I just happened to get one of the three-month models.

I'll wait and hear from my supplier to see what he can offer. If I hadn't been mulling a SCSI drive later this year, I would have simply accepted another Maxtor IDE and carried on my way...

Yes. About 99% of the people who think they understand what MTBF means, don't. If graphed, the MTBF curve on your Maxtor would take the form of a Poisson Distribution, with a few drives failing very young, the vast majority failing a few years out (tailing off to almost nothing), and a tiny number surviving for decades. I remember reading back in the 1980's about a lightbulb that had been turned on in 1918 and had been burning ever since. The Poisson curve grants the possibility of such anomalies. I've often wondered about Old Tom Parr, who supposedly lived to be 352 years old. I've never run the numbers on it, but it's theoretically possible. At a guess, though, he'd be something like one in a quadrillion or quintillion. There haven't been that many people who have ever lived, so it would definitely be an anomaly.

* * * * *

This followup from Tom Syroid [tsyroid@home.com]:

The way my days have been going in the last week, I'm really not sure I'd want to live to be 352 years old. We'd sure have a long list of cautions and caveats regarding "Don't do with with your computer" by then, wouldn't we?

In case you're interested, a friend just dropped off a spare 2GB drive for me to borrow over the weekend. I installed Win2K Pro RC1 (2072) and I couldn't connect to the Internet. I reformatted, started over, installed Beta 3 (2031), *then* upgraded Beta 3 to RC1 and all is well. Go Figure.

Well, I was thinking about installing RC1 this weekend, but I think I may just wait for RC2. Thanks for the tip.

* * * * *

Another followup from Tom Syroid [tsyroid@home.com]:

You might be better off. OTOH, other than the Internet connection niggle, things went as advertised and my system appears to be running as stable as ever. Still no USB, though. I was hoping it might just be the way NT was assigning resources, but this doesn't appear to be the case. Oh well.

Sorry to hear that. I haven't tried running NT5 on a dual processor system with USB, but I'll let you know what happens when I build my dual processor system.

 


 

 

 

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Friday, 10 September 1999

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The Register reports that Intel is about to cut prices yet again. As of 12 September, Intel will cut the price of the Celeron/400 from $78 to $70; the Celeron/433 from $98 to $85; the Celeron/466 from $118 to $105; the Celeron/500 from $173 to $160; the Pentium III/550 from $470 to $410; and the Pentium III/600 from $670 to $610. The Pentium III/450 remains at $185, and the Pentium III/500 at $254. All of this in preparation for the 27 September introduction of the 133 MHz FSB Pentium III/533B, which will debut at $380, and the Pentium III/600B, which debuts at $660.

AMD has so far held out against making significant price cuts on the Athlon, but that can't last much longer. At this point, the Athlon rollout is beginning to look like an utter failure. They're not shipping product in volume, few motherboards are available, and those that are are expensive and of very poor quality (some have already been recalled). Although Tom's Hardware, Anand, and the other enthusiast web sites are trumpeting the wonders of the Athlon, it appears to me that the Athlon is turning into an unmitigated disaster for AMD. Saying that the Athlon is faster than the Pentium III (which is dubious in itself) is all well and good, but the point is that AMD must deliver product in volume to make the Athlon a commercial success, and they're showing no signs of being able to do that. AMD has bet the company on the Athlon, and it's looking like a losing bet. Anyone who buys an Athlon now is choosing a risky course.

And just in time to cancel out those Intel price cuts, the price of RAM is shooting up dramatically. Since the first of the month, the cost of memory has about doubled.

* * * * *

Barbara came home this afternoon from errands with two anniversary presents for me (and we agreed that we wouldn't get each other anything--never believe a woman when she says that). She got me a new pair of jeans and the latest Tess Gerritsen novel, Gravity. If you like medical thrillers, get to know Tess Gerritsen. This is her fourth book, and the first three were superb. There's a Stephen King blurb on the front of this one that says she's better than Palmer, Cook, and Crichton. He's right. She is.

The best part was how much Barbara paid for the book. It lists at $25 and had a 30% off sticker on the front. Barbara is a member of some frequent buyer program at the bookstore where she bought it, which got her an additional 10% off. So her price was $15. She hadn't been in lately, so they sent her a $5 gift certificate, dropping the net price to $10. Not much more than remainder price. She is one crafty shopper. And Ms. Gerritsen gets her royalty of $3.75 or so, which she wouldn't have gotten on a remainder sale.

* * * * *

This from M. Praeger [athyrio@hotmail.com]:

Thomas Parr lived to be 152, not 352. He is buried in Westminster Abbey. If you saw the wedding of Lady Di and Charles, you may recall the face of the priest, abbot, bishop, or whatever-he-is who married them. When I visited the Abbey in 1991, this same guy walked over to me, as I contemplated Parr's floor-inlaid tombstone. He said to me, "He is said to have lived to 152." I said, "Yes. I think I've read, he was a vegetarian." --to which the padre replied, "I don't know about that, but certainly he was a pensioner."

You may be right, we may be thinking of different people, or the source I read this in many years ago may have contained a misprint. I think perhaps it was an old edition of the Guinness Book of World Records, although it was 25 years or more ago that I read about it. I don't usually forget numbers, though, and an age of 152 is easily within the realm of possibility, so that wouldn't have stuck in my mind. I did an Internet search last night, and found only one reference to Old Tom Parr, which gave his age at death as 135.

* * * * *

This from Shawn Wallbridge [swallbridge@home.com]:

I would have to agree with you about Netscape. I spent 4 hours going through some ASP code that I had written, because Netscape wouldn't display anything on the page. Turns out I had missed a </table> tag. Fixed that and everything was fine. I showed it to my friend who is a real Netscape fan and he said it was my fault. I'm sorry, but a browser should be able to display a page (at least some of it) if there is a small error in it. Here is a page that will make Netscape GPF. Yet does nothing to IE. 

I think I will keep using IE.

I agree. I've never been able to figure out Netscape apologists who maintain that it is proper behavior for a browser that encounters an HTML error to crash and burn horribly. In what way is it better, unless one considers Nav to be an HTML error checker rather than a working browser? Surely most users would prefer the browser do something reasonable and attempt to render the HTML to the best of its ability rather than GPFing.

* * * * *

This from Jan Swijsen [qjsw@oce.nl]:

Would you believe this. I saw your mail and started to reply. Yesterday I had the problem with the Ars Technica page that it loads correct the first time, from the server, but that it did not display correctly after re-sizing the page. I thought, and still think, that this is due to a missing part of a script. It did display the page up to the script and stopped, it did not blow up. I wanted to check the script again today and now Netscape blows up. The 'This app has performed an illegal operation ...' type of blow up. This took my unfinished mail along as I use Communicator for my mail. It does this consistently today. While yesterday it displayed the page top, up to the script, consistently. I checked the source and it looks exactly the same, up to the missing part, whatever browser I use to load it.

Yesterday it didn't blow up, today it does. Where has the logic gone?

Regards,
Svenson

There's something strange going on with my own page as well. I'm not sure exactly what combination of things results in the behavior I've observed, but my page automatically refreshed yesterday when I called it up in my browser. Apparently, some combination of the no-cache meta tag, the browser cache settings, and perhaps the phase of the moon controls whether or not the page auto-refreshes. To recap, I took the following steps:

  1. Upload page with no-cache meta tag included.
  2. Fire up IE and hit my site (no auto-refresh)
  3. Click Refresh (page refreshes normally)
  4. Close all instances of IE.
  5. Fire up IE and hit my site (no auto-refresh)
  6. Edit page and upload changed page to server
  7. Fire up IE and hit my site (page auto-refreshes)

The only thing I can figure out is that the browser cache is comparing the page in cache with the page on the server, and doing an auto-refresh only if the page on the server is more recent. But it shouldn't be caching the page at all. I have no idea what's going on.

* * * * *

This from Ed Bott [ed@bott.com], one of the authors who participates on a private Windows 2000 mailing list oriented toward authors writing W2K books. The ongoing discussion had to do with ACPI and power management problems with W2K running on notebook systems.

Paul Robichaux writes:

>> This isn't strictly limited to portables. One of my DCs is built on the ASUS P2B-D mobo, which supports ACPI. However, since {the BIOS | W2K} has a flaw W2K installs the MPS HAL instead of ACPI. It's possible to trick setup.exe into installing ACPI support anyway, but results range from splendid (e.g. everything works) to dismal.

Hate to tell you this, but there's an excellent chance your mobo was built wrong. The flaw isn't in the BIOS, the flaw is in the motherboard wiring. ASUS found they had wired P2B-D and DS boards incorrectly for ACPI support and will post information about this on their web site soon. The result of the mis-wiring is that Windows 2000 uses the MPS multiprocessor PC HAL by default. Versions of this board now shipping have the fault corrected. Anyone who currently has one of these boards needs to contact ASUS for a workaround or to exchange the board.

Ed Bott

Thanks. As of this afternoon, I couldn't find anything on the ASUS site about the problem. I've never used ASUS motherboards, although I know they're well-thought of by many. I'm sure that some of my readers use this board, however, so they'll no doubt appreciate the heads-up.

* * * * *

This from Scott, Terry [tscott@atinc.com]:

I have run into a problem and hopefully you or one of your readers can help me out.

I have been trying to install a TNT2 based video card with video in/out functions on a system and keep having the same problem.

After I install the drivers for the card, (both the version on the CD and later a newer downloaded version) NT reboots, and gets to the ctl-alt-del to login screen and freezes. No mouse, no keyboard, nothing. Booting using VGA mode, has the same results.

The strange thing is I have tried this with two different brands of video cards, an Asus 3800, and a ELSA Eraser3, both TNT2 based cards, and get the exact same problem. This is a dual boot system NT4 and Win 98 (the video capture functions don't work in NT, hence the need for 98), windows 98 works without a problem.

The system is a P3, 450, using an Abit 440BX motherboard, all IDE harddrives and an IDE CD-R/W and running NT4 with service pack 5 installed.

Thanks,
Terry Scott

Work- tscott@atinc.com
home - tmscott@bellsouth.net

I've never used a TNT2 board under Windows NT, although I do have systems running NT with the Riva 128 and Riva TNT chipsets. I've never had any problem with those. The fact that you see the same results with two different models of TNT2 card is probably not significant. Those cards are probably identical for all practical purposes and could likely use the same drivers. The fact that you experience a hang even when loading the vanilla VGA driver tells me that the driver is unlikely to be the problem. More likely, there's some kind of hardware resource conflict that Windows 98 is resolving and Windows NT isn't. Windows 98, of course, is treating these boards as AGP video adapters. NT doesn't support AGP, so it recognizes them as simple PCI devices.

My first thought would be to check for IRQ and/or Base I/O address conflicts. Other than that, I'm not sure what I'd try. I'll post this to my journal page tonight. Perhaps one of my readers will have some ideas.

 


 

 

 

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Saturday, 11 September 1999

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Barbara left last night to spend the night at her parents' house. They departed on their bus tour at about 7:00 a.m. this morning, leaving her Trooper in the K-Mart parking lot where the bus picked them up. My friend Steve Tucker ran me over there to pick up Barbara's truck so that it wouldn't sit there for a week. I remembered that much. Now I *must* remember to return to that parking lot next Sunday afternoon to pick up Barbara, her sister, and her parents. If I forget to do that, I'm dead meat.

* * * * *

ASUS has posted a page describing the problems with ACPI and Windows 2000 on P2B motherboards.

* * * * *

I continue to be amazed by this Tecmar Travan NS20 tape drive. I just used it to run a backup on Barbara's main machine, theodore, and the Windows 98 box odin. The backup data set totaled about 6.5 GB--3.7 GB on theodore (local to the tape drive), and 2.8 GB on odin (backed up via my 100BaseT network). Using BackupExec 7.3, the overall backup rate was about 82 MB/min (5 GB/hr), less than the 120 MB/min at which the drive is rated, but impressive nonetheless. For data on the local hard drive, the Tecmar maintained just under 100 MB/min (6 GB/hr). This is one fast tape drive. At a street price of $350 to $400 for the bare drive, it may be overkill for a typical individual PC, but it's just about ideal for a small network server. Highly recommended.

* * * * *

This from Brian Bilbrey [bilbrey@pacbell.net]:

Hasta from the left coast and Happy Anniversary. You share this day with my father's birthday, and since he has promised me a trip to orbit without a suit if I bring up his birthday, I will just recognize your celebration...oops <g>.

On the subject of netscape. I am not sure of "GPF", mine does a GCFB (goes completely ** bonkers) in several locations. Once upon a time I did most of my page development in Composer - quick, dirty and good enough... until you look at the pages with IE. Now I work with HTML editors in both environments, CoolCat on the NT at work, and Bluefish on Linux at home. At work, I edit in CoolCat, and check results with both IE and Netscape (trying to get the code to look reasonably similar on both browsers is unreasonably difficult). At home, I only check with Netscape, but also have the advantage of a GPL'd program called weblint which is pretty good at picking up coding errors. Just today posted version 3 of the corporate site I run (http://www.etslan.com) and my home site I think you've seen at http://216.102.91.55. Both done with hand coding, and I finally am happy with the results, which I never was with wysiwyg(a).

The rumor mill grinds out that Opera for Linux will be out sometime this fall... I really would like NS to work, though, because I am a lazy cuss, who has gotten used to integerated mailtool/browser/newsreader. sigh.

What has no-cache done to your hit rates? Through the roof?

--
regards,
Brian Bilbrey
bilbrey@pacbell.net

Thanks. When I first started this site, I attempted to make sure that it was friendly to both Netscape and IE. I had to use FrontPage (or something similar) just because I didn't have the time or inclination to learn how to hand-code HTML. I decided to keep things as simple as possible--text and tables--and avoid anything that might cause problems in either browser. At first, I'd preview each page in both IE and Nav before posting it, but eventually I concluded that that wasn't worth the time it took. So nowadays I just type away in FrontPage Editor and post it. Other than the occasional "long line" problem I haven't had many complaints from either IE or Nav users.

As far as hit rates, I normally download and process my web stats once a week, so I hadn't done them since I made the change. I just checked yesterday's stats, and they appear pretty normal. I got 791 page views yesterday, which is par for a Friday. What's really odd is that the percentages of status code 200 (OK) and 304 (Not modified since last retrieval) are about the same as always.

Since I've had this no-cache meta tag in effect for a couple of days, I've noticed that it does indeed have an effect in my browser (IE5) at least. The page doesn't auto-refresh unless I've published a new version of the page since the last time I retrieved it. So, if the page is old, nothing happens. If the page is new, it gets retrieved automatically. I think that's probably a pretty good arrangement.

* * * * *

This follow-up from Brian Bilbrey [bilbrey@pacbell.net]:

well...

I am looking through the Apache server configuration files on my system, and am finding that the no-cache pragma is used to instruct *proxy servers* not to cache your pages as the move through the internet. Has no effect on client caches (I think :-| ).

This may explain both the behaviour you have noticed on your system, and the fairly small-to-nil effect you have noticed on hit rates - I think many proxy servers only cache for a short time (I could be VERY wrong on that, but I would set it up so that the cache would be effective at intercepting traffic to quite busy sites, while keeping everything reasonably fresh).

--
regards,
Brian Bilbrey
bilbrey@pacbell.net

I'm sure you're right, but I still don't understand some of the behavior I'm seeing. I do run a proxy server (WinGate), but I have caching turned off on the server. Just this morning, I hit the Ars Techica site, and it did not auto-refresh. At first I thought they'd eliminated the no-cache tag, but it's still there. So I don't understand what's going on.

* * * * *

This from tek1@inwave.com:

I have been running a cacheless page for a couple of months now without problems.

The code that I found to do this consisted of two statements.

<META HTTP-EQUIV="EXPIRES" CONTENT="Fri, 24 Oct 1997 00:00:01 GMT">
<META HTTP-EQUIV="Pragma" CONTENT="no-cache">

I was going to test if both were required but never did. Your reports seem to indicate that they both are. Add the expiration code and see what happens. Should do the trick.

Bob

tek1@inwave.com

Thanks. I was familiar with the EXPIRES meta tag, and had actually considered using it at one time. I'm not sure why I decided not to, but there was a reason, or so I thought at the time. In fact, I seem to recall that there's an option to expire immediately, which would supposedly cause the page to be reloaded every time it was viewed. The way things are set up now appears to work properly, at least in my browser. This page auto-refreshes if and only if the page on the server has changed since the last time I retrieved it.

* * * * *

This from J.H. Ricketson [culam@neteze.com]:

I'd like to share some good things with your readership, if I may. Although there are many variations on these, each is the "Best of Breed", IMO

Five Utilities I can't Do Without

Disclaimer: My only connection with these is as a very happy user.

MemTurbo: My installation of NT4.0/SP3 began to show its age. "LOW MEMORY" fright boxes every morning if I left it on overnight. Had to reboot. Even then, after 4-6 hours the nags were back again. I installed MemTurbo. It is a garbage collection utility that runs very quietly in the background, not interfering with anything. It constantly sweeps RAM & Virtual Memory, restoring the memory that various apps have wasted. Problem solved. I can now run NT4 24/7/365 with no memory nags. Eval copy (US$19.95 to keep) at:

InterMute: THE ad-Killer. Easy to set up & use, infinitely configurable. Each web site you visit can be given its own profile of what to screen. ads, cookies, Java stuff, autorefreshes, noise ("music"), etc. My online bank insists that it be allowed to drop cookies in order for me to access my account info. OK I set up InterMute to allow cookies from that one site. Everybody happy - even though every one of my "COOKIE" files is READ ONLY. Go figure. This is a real sanity-saver. Eval copy ( US$19.95 to keep) at:

KeyExpress: A utility that configures various two-key combinations to autotype up to 255 characters. Can also pause for KB entry. For instance: ctrl-4 prints US$ for me. Alt-F8 prints culam@neteze.com for me. Another combo prints my Visa # - without error. Its usefulness is limited only by your imagination. It hides unobtrusively in the background, but its screen may be called up to edit by a hotkey of your choice. For me it is a lot faster & more accurate than my typing. Eval copy (US$24.95 to keep) at:

StartEd: Is a start menu editor & controller. It shows all the apps in your start menu, and enables adding or deleting apps simply & easily. I now have a startup file that runs ONLY those apps I want. All the nagging annoyances that various apps drop in the startup file have been eliminated. One small step toward controlling my computer rather than vice-versa. Eval copy (US$17.00 to keep) at:

PrintKey 2000: A very sophisticated screen print/save utility. It is NOT "WYSIWYG". What you get from a printer (I use an HP deskjet 870) is much better than the screen view. Crystal clear. If the file were printed to a color laser printer, it would probably be prepress quality. Highly configurable to suit your desires. Freeware copy at:

Enjoy!

JHR
--
culam@neteze.com
[J.H. Ricketson in San Pablo]

Thanks. The only one of those I've used is MemTurbo (which I concluded was probably useful for Win9X, but of limited use for Windows NT). I may take a look at some of the others.

* * * * *

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

Just curious, but since you seem to know far more about tennis rules than anyone I've come across before I have a question. When you score a game in tennis the progression is 15, 30, then 40. Why 40? It would have seemed logical to have 45 based on increments of 15. Come to think of that, why is the first point called 15? I've always wondered about that and never heard any reasons for the scoring of tennis. Thanks

Good questions. I don't know the answers, although I suspect that everyone who learns tennis scoring immediately wonders the same things. Tennis is an ancient game. Henry VIII, for example, in his younger (and slimmer) days played a version of tennis called court tennis, which kind of resembled a cross between modern tennis, squash, and racquetball. That was nearly 500 years ago, and the game is more ancient still. As far as I know, all versions of tennis since the beginning have used the same names for point scores. When I read your question, my first thought was to convert to Roman numerals to see if that made sense. But somehow "XV", "XXX" and "XL" don't seem to make much more sense. Of course, forty was sometimes written as "XXXX", but that doesn't help much either. Perhaps one of my readers will have the time to track down a good answer, if in fact one exists.

* * * * *

This from Bo Leuf [bo@leuf.com]:

You write " I did an Internet search last night, and found only one reference to Old Tom Parr, which gave his age at death as 135."

Interestingly, the Chambers Biographical Dictionary lists "Old Parr" and gives the figure as 152-- I quote the item:

"Parr, Thomas ("Old Parr" (?1483-1635) ... He was a Shropshire farmer-servant, and when 120 years old married his second wife, and till his 130th year performed all his usual work. In his 152nd year his fame had reached London, and he was induced to journey thither to see Charles I. But he was treated at court so royally that he died, November 14, 1635. Taylor, the Water-poet, wrote his Life, and the great Hervey in his portmortem report repeats the popular hearsay. There is no sound evidence."

Perhaps, Old Parr just couldn't take the change in diet or those drafty London court bedrooms after late night drinking. Who knows.

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

Thanks. Obviously, I either misremembered the 352 year old figure or there was a typo in the source I saw it in. Probably the latter, given that I seldom misremember numbers and had the final two correct. That and the fact that I explicitly recall thinking at the time that that age would make him more than a third of Methusalah's alleged age. I don't doubt an age of 152. Statistically, that would probably make him on the close order of one in a billion, so it's not unlikely that he did in fact reach that age.

* * * * *

This from J.H. Ricketson [culam@neteze.com]:

Please read this, and the cited URL very carefully before you post it. I do NOT want to start a flame war at your site. If you don't post it - it's your call to make. OTOH, it was a real and disturbing wake-up call for me. Kind of like a DI at 0530. Anyway:

This URL is very disturbing to me. It is a narrative by one of the few survivors of the Branch Davidian compound when the State terminated it. The guy comes off as a very credible and sane individual. Not the ranting of some insane right-wing nut. It scares me. I more and more get the impression of America as a huge flock of sheep, constantly harassed by packs of jackals and hyenas the packs supported, aided, and abetted by the shepherds in order to cull the weak & non-conforming sheep. The only recourse the sheep have is to metamorphose to a jackal or hyena and join a pack. Not a pleasant thought.

Chairman Mao states that "All power comes from the barrel of a gun." The assumed corollary is "in the hands of one willing and able to use it." We have seen numerous instances of this use of the power. Ghandi (sp.?) would seem the exception, if it weren't for the corollary. The Brits were unable/unwilling to use the power. Hitler, Stalin and Clinton - and the FBI - were quite willing & able. URL at:  

Regards,

JHR --

culam@neteze.com
[J.H. Ricketson in San Pablo]

I don't think you need to worry about starting a flame war (probably a poor choice of phrase given the subject). No one, no matter what his political stripe, can fail to be disturbed by the recent revelations about what went on at Waco. I am no friend of religion of any sort, and most certainly not of "cults." In fact, twenty-three years ago I lost the woman I intended to marry to Moon's Unification Church. So, few people could have been expected to have less sympathy for the Branch Davidians as they were being presented on the evening news during the siege. And yet, even then I suspected that we were being lied to by the government and that those people in the compound were probably victims of the government rather than aggressors as they were represented to be. When I heard about the feds using tanks against civilians, I knew something evil was going on. I haven't changed that opinion, and little that has been revealed recently surprises me at all. I think that all of those involved on the government side, up to and including Mr. Clinton, should be prosecutable and prosecuted by the state of Texas on first-degree murder charges.

I've read this article. Obviously, the gentleman who wrote it may have an agenda of his own. But I find what he has to say much more credible than I do what the government has said.

 


 

 

 

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Sunday, 12 September 1999

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Well, this is getting ridiculous. I just noticed the download time estimator at the bottom of FrontPage Editor, and it tells me that this page will take nearly 2 minutes to download. Obviously I need to do something. I could, of course, cut down on the number of messages from readers that I post, but I didn't want to do that. So, I considered two possibilities:

  • Dividing my journal into daily rather than weekly pages. That method has the drawbacks of greatly increasing the number of pages to be created and maintained (particularly having to fix links for each daily page), as well as making it harder on readers.
  • Use Pournelle's method, splitting my journal page into two weekly pages, Daynotes and Mail. Although that doubles the number of pages I have to maintain, I think it's worth it in the long run.

So, starting tomorrow, there will be two pages. I'll create links to the current Daynotes page and current Mail page on the home page, and continue to make the current pages bookmarkable. The journal page will continue to be thisweek.html. The current mail page will be newmail.html. I'm going to discontinue the bookmarkable page lastweek.html for two reasons: first, it gets very little traffic (only 69 page reads last week). Second, it's easy enough to view last week's Daynotes simply by clicking the "Last Week" link in the current Daynotes page.

I've avoided taking this action in the past largely because of two irrational concerns: (a) that I won't be able to think of anything to write about and my journal page will be blank, and (b) that readers won't send me any mail to post. Neither of those seems likely.

I hope this change meets with readers' approval. If nothing else, it will allow you to read one page while the other loads in the background.

* * * * *

This from Scott McIntyre [smcintyr@mail.com]:

Regarding the "why 40?" tennis scoring question, I found this tidbit in the rec.sport.tennis FAQ:

"The scoring system is said to derive from the usage of the four quarters of a clock (15-30-45-60) used to score a game in the pre-modern era. 60 would signify game, while 45 was, in time, 'shortened' to 40."

Interesting. I don't know if it's true, but it sounds plausible. Laziness has motivated many things throughout history.

Yes, that is interesting, and sounds like a possible explanation. The only reason I think it may not be true is that I think the 15-30-40 tennis scoring predates clock faces. But who knows.

* * * * *

This from J.H. Ricketson [culam@neteze.com]:

Just found this press release from HP re their DVD+RW. Looks like some of your "speculation" is arriving. HP also have an extremely clever marketing ploy:

"A major advantage: the cartridge-free 'bare media' disk."

To me, that is a major DISadvantage. I've already wasted one US$60 program CD. I just do not trust anything not encapsulated in a cartridge.

Story at:  

Regards,

JHR
--
culam@neteze.com
[J.H. Ricketson in San Pablo]

Well, it *is* an advantage, for three reasons:

  • drives that can accept bare discs can be designed to fit notebook systems, which is difficult for cartridge-based discs
  • bare discs are cheaper to manufacture than cartridge-based discs. That's not a factor right now, but as blank discs drop in price, the +RW discs are likely to be noticeably cheaper than the DVD-RAM cartridges. If +RW discs eventually drop to $1 apiece and DVD-RAM discs drop only to $4 or $5 each, that gives +RW a huge advantage.
  • Right now and for the foreseeable future, removing a DVD-RAM disc from its carrier (to allow it to be inserted into a regular DVD drive) makes that disc no longer re-recordable. The +RW disc does not have that problem. Of course, there aren't any DVD players that will read +RW discs, so that point is moot for now.

All of that said, I think DVD-RAM will probably win the war, but I don't think anyone will know for sure which standard will triumph until mid- to late-2000.

* * * * *

This from Tarun Ghosal [alpana@cal.vsnl.net.in]:

To: Mr. Robert Bruce Thompson
From: Soumya Shankar Ghosal
Dated: 12th September, 1999

Dear Sir,

Wish you a belated Wedding Anniversary. As you had told earlier, I have updated my Website with a new section called "Tips and Tricks". This section hosts 50 Windows 98 Tips and Tricks divided in 5 pages, i.e. each page has 10 Tips and Tricks each.

The site is located at http://soumya.indianet.org . Please visit it and advise your comments/suggestions.

Best Regards,
Soumya Shankar Ghosal
Email: alpana@cal.vsnl.net.in
http://soumya.indianet.org

Thanks. I'll post you message on my daily journal page in case any of my readers care to visit your site. Good luck.

 


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