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Daynotes Journal

Week of 8 November 1999

Sunday, 14 November 1999 15:15

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, 8 November 1999

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What a day. It started, for some reason, with repeated power failures. The first one woke Barbara at about 6:00 a.m., why I'm not sure. She left to run errands and go to the gym, and the power started going up and down like a yo-yo. Ordinarily, that wouldn't be a problem, because all of my main systems are protected by APC UPSs. Today, however, an unfortunate sequence of events caused me to spend time recovering stuff that shouldn't have been in any danger to start with. This was all due to a confluence of things:

a. my new main system, kiwi, is sitting behind me on the credenza. Ordinarily, I'd have the systems on the credenza running off the 2 KVA Smart Power Systems UPS. Today, for various reasons I won't get into, they were running without UPS protection.

b. when the power failed, kiwi died (of course), but when the power came back on, kiwi remained off rather than restarting.

c. Right now, Barbara's main system, theodore, is the main network data store. I have batch files written that xcopy all changed files from theodore to odin and then reset the archive bits to indicate that they've been backed up. Using those batch files, I can back up all my current work many times a day without having the xcopy process take too long. But I was in the process of relocating the databack folder from odin to kiwi.

d. When the destination drive is unavailable (because that system had no UPS and did not restart when the power came back on), xcopy behaves oddly. I was running the batch file Databack.bat on the local C: drive of kerby. That batch file xcopies data from network drive F: (local C: on theodore) to network drive G: (originally local D: on odin, now local G: on kiwi). However, when drive G: isn't available, the batch file generates two error messages (that scroll by too quickly to read) informing me that the destination drive isn't available. It then completes the xcopy operation, but uses the local drive (C: on kerby) as the destination.

To make a very long story short, I was cleaning up stuff from drives where it would no longer live, and ended up deleting all of the backup folders. That wouldn't really be a problem (I still have the main data), but the backup folders are cumulative. That is, older files that I've since deleted from the main data directory continue to reside in Databack, and serve as a backup of deleted files. I didn't want to lose that, so I ended up firing up the Tecmar DDS tape drive and restoring the old databack directory to get back those ancient files.

Then Barbara got back from her errands and started doing some things downstairs in my mom's living area. A few minutes later, she called up to ask if I could come down and help her for a minute. Several hours later, I returned upstairs. In the mean time, we ended up rearranging my mother's living area entirely, moving furniture, vacuuming, and so on. We relocated my mother's television, VCR, and stereo to a new location where I'd cleverly installed a spare cable TV/telephone jack when we remodeled the area several years ago.

It would have been cleverer still if I'd connected that spare jack to the distribution panel. I hadn't, and the jack was dead. I tried to convince my mother and my wife that my mother didn't really need cable TV. She could just watch tapes on her VCR. That argument crashed and burned, so I went off in search of a long coax cable. I used my T-25 staple gun to run the cable from the new TV location along the baseboard, up the frame of the French doors, over the top, down the other side, and to the working cable TV jack.

After doing that and a bunch of other stuff, my mother is finally settled in. Surprisingly enough, I also got quite a bit of writing done. Then it struck me that the reason I'd gotten so much done was that I hadn't done a thing about updating my web site for today. Thanks to all of you who've written to ask if everything was okay. It is, but I'm simply trying to keep my head above the alligators. I think I'm going to stick with updating the site in the evening, assuming that I have enough energy left by then. Actually, I may even skip a day now and then. Everyone else seems to, so why shouldn't I?

UPS showed up, finally, with the Intel FC PGA Pentium III "Coppermine" processor. That was supposed to arrive last Tuesday. When it didn't, I mailed my contact at Intel. He put a tracer on the shipment, and then mailed me back to ask for my phone number so that UPS could call me. The lady from UPS called that evening (Tuesday), and said that there must have been some kind of mistake. The shipment wasn't scheduled to arrive at my house until Wednesday. She assured me that it would show up Wednesday afternoon. 

It didn't come Wednesday. It didn't come Thursday. Friday, I finally mailed Intel to ask if they could put another tracer on it. They did so, but apparently no one had any idea where it had gotten to. Then, this afternoon, the UPS guy showed up and handed me the box. He wasn't aware that anything unusual was going on. In fact, he said I was lucky. He'd delivered my box this afternoon rather than this evening because he had a priority delivery elsewhere in the neighborhood and decided it made sense to drop my package while he was here. He was surprised, to say the least, when I told him that this box was supposed to have been delivered last Tuesday or Wednesday, depending on who you listen to.

At any rate, here's a picture of the Coppermine. Although the chip is labeled 600 MHz, Intel suggested I run it only at 500 or 550 MHz, which request I will honor. The "ES" on the end of the S-Spec stands for "Engineering Sample", which basically means that the multiplier isn't locked. I'll plug this processor into the Intel CA810E motherboard, which also supports PPGA Celeron processors. I have a couple of PPGA Celerons around, so it'll be interesting to see how they compare to Coppermine.

coppermine-fcpga.jpg (20060 bytes)

The Coppermine comes with an enormous heatsink/fan combo, at least by socketed chip standards. Obviously, a processor this fast needs some serious cooling, and it looks to me as though the heatsink/fan that comes with the processor should do the job. Here it is.

coppermine-fan.jpg (26096 bytes)

Interesting difference between those two photos. The Coppermine was shot with two 60 watt tungsten bulbs. In addition to the shadowing typical of butterfly lighting, it shows a distinct yellow shift despite the automatic white balance circuitry in the Olympus D400-Z. The heatsink/fan was shot with both 60 watt bulbs lit, but also using the flash. It shows the background (white card stock) as much closer to neutral. 

I'd shot one of the processor with flash, but I oriented the camera almost exactly perpendicular to the desktop. The resulting photo had a strong reflection of the flash. So I went back just now and shot another photo of the processor, this time with flash, but aiming the camera a bit more obliquely. Everything worked fine, but I'm too tired to transfer that photo to the computer right now, so the original will have to do. 

So it looks like I can either shoot with tungsten only and adjust the white balance on the camera to adjust for the yellow cast of incandescent lighting, or I can use the tungsten lights for focusing aids only, and depend on the flash for the main exposure. The latter, I think, will work best.

There's lots of mail, but I'm out of time and energy to do much about it. I'll post some of the representative messages, but it is, as Pournelle says, short-shrift time:

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: HS [mailto:hsavr@ibm.net]
Sent: Saturday, November 06, 1999 9:00 PM
To: webmaster@ttgnet.com
Subject: errata file - web page

Dear webmaster, 

The book WinNT TCP/IP Network Admin refers to http://www.ttgnet.com/nttcp.html (page xvi) as an errata file. The file does not exist at this location. I found it in other place. I believe that it would be no bad idea to automatically redirect people from the URL, mentioned in the book to the place where you actually keep the errata.

Sincerely, 
Henry Savransky

PS: Are Craig & Robert considering Win2000 edition? There are a lot of changes in Win2000 as well as in Internet itself since October 1998 (today is just November 1999 - unbelievable!!!)

Good point, and thanks for reminding me. I foolishly re-organized my web site after the book went to press, not realizing that I would be breaking the links listed in the book. I'll put this on my to-do list.

As far as a revised version, I'm sure we'll be doing one, but I have four other books for O'Reilly to finish writing first. The TCP book is primarily server-oriented, and I doubt that Windows 2000 Server will come into wide use much before late 2001 or early 2002. The version of Windows 2000 Server that Microsoft plans to ship 2/17/00 will be completely unusable, and will probably require at least three service packs before any sane person would consider running it on a production server. With Y2K issues taking us through the end of 1999 and early 2000, essentially no one will be rolling out W2KP or W2KS until at least mid-2000. Beyond that, there is a huge accumulated backlog of high-priority projects that have been deferred in order to free up resources to deal with Y2K. An operating system upgrade will have to take a back seat to those projects. The short of it is that my guess is that Windows 2000 Server installations will not overtake Windows NT 4 Server installations until at least two years after W2KS ships. By that time, we should have a revised version of the book out. 

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Joshua D. Boyd [mailto:jdboyd@cs.millersv.edu]
Sent: Sunday, November 07, 1999 2:18 PM
To: Robert Bruce Thompson
Subject: RE: Web pages and browser dominance

It's not that I would have voted for him other wise. It is that I couldn't find out what he stood for. Since I couldn't get to his site to find out about him, I didn't know him from any other stranger on the street. If he had sent me a mailing saying what he stood for, and I agreed with it, I would have voted for him despite not being able to see his web site.

I may sound like a fanatic about that, but it isn't really fanatical, but more laziness. And that is something that could have effected him from other people to. I have many friends that aren't highly expert in computers (which is being generous), that have refused to ever take the time to download and install flash. They probably would have felt the same way about this man's web page as I did.

Obviously, I can't expect everyone to make web pages that I can view on my home computer. Depending on who it is though, I like to warn them that they will lose visitor's is they don't play nicely.

Hopefully Mozilla/Netscape 5 will be enough to make people start being more concerned about browser compatibility. If nothing else, it should be a lot more compatible than Netscape 4 is with Internet Explorer. I suspect that it probably won't immediatly unseat IE on the desktop, but hopefully it will be used for embeded systems, kiosks, and such. I'm pragmatic enough to realize that linux still has a long way to go to assult Microsoft on the desktop, but there are many niche markets that it is rapidly becoming good at, as demostrated by products such as the Cobalt Qube.

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

Sorry. I misunderstood your original message to mean that you didn't vote for the guy because you liked everything about him except his web site. Still, does this mean that all the other candidates had web sites that you could view? Even if that's the case, I think voting for someone based on the quality of his web site (or lack thereof) is a serious mistake. Consider how much crap Pournelle gets about the appearance of his site.

I'm beginning to doubt that Mozilla/Navigator 5 will ever ship. If it does, I think it will play a very minor role on the Windows desktop. As a Linux user, I'm sure you'll upgrade immediately, as will I for my Linux systems. But I think it's much too little much too late to have much impact on IE.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Jan Swijsen [mailto:qjsw@oce.nl]
Sent: Monday, November 08, 1999 9:11 AM
To: Robert Bruce Thompson
Subject: Microsoft, +

Bob,

Microsoft plays hardball. So what? They don't cheat. They don't steal.

They cheat royal. And they steal. Or what do you call it when they ask money for a beta product. And how much time have they stolen from you?  That they do it in a perfectly legal way doesn't make it any different.

But I agree that they shouldn't be punished for that.

That they build in code to break other companies products is something I would want to punish them for. It is however rather difficult to prove. Consider, you bring your car in to the garage for replacing your brakes and they puncture your tires (because you use tyres from a mark they don't supply). Then they offer you tyres that are cheaper and, according to them, better. Of course they puncture them in a way that it is hard to prove they did it. How would you react to that?

When they provide videos as testimony and later admit that the videos were faked is rather crude. And reeks heavily to false witness. In Belgium false witness is be a criminal offence so that, even if you win the case at hand you meet yourself in court afterwards.

Microsoft takes the approach, "Here's what we want you to do. If you do what we want, here's what we'll do for you in exchange."

That is what they say to customers. And after the customer has bought they don't do exactly what they said they would do in exchange, which is all right because all commercial operations do just that. What they say to (potential) competitors sounds different. Somewhat like "Here is what we want you to do. If you do what we want, we'll let you con, for the time being. If you don't, we'll buy you out or make some shoddy product to kick you out of the market." Nothing illegal, just not nice.

Maybe MS gets split up maybe not. I think splitting up could be one of the best things that could happen. For MS and the customers that is, not for its competitors. Because cutting up MS could give it an opportunity to refocus and shed a lot of fat. MS, the last 15 years or so, has always been like a Grizzly bear, huge, powerful and unexpectedly fast. If they split up, the competitors will find not one bear to fight against but three or four.
Would serve them well :-).

Other subject (well the previous one is truly chewed out by now).

Not voting for a man for whom you would otherwise have voted simply because his web page does not display correctly on your Linux system strikes me as the action of a fanatic.

Well, you decide on which candidate to vote by checking out what he/she has to say. If the candidate makes it difficult to find out her/his program though luck. I don't call that fanatic. If a candidate expects you to switch to another OS and an other browser, what are your chances he/she will listen to what you want?
I don't see fanatism here, just a filter. You got to base your decision on something and politicians promises are not the most solid ground so you best look at what and how they actually do things. I find it rather strange that a candidate should overlook an issue like browser compatibility. It is like printing pamphlets in 4 point script, which is about unreadable, and then expect people to use magnifying glasses to read the stuff.. 

I conclude that, in common with a lot of other people, you do not understand (a) what a monopoly is, and (b) what constitutes compulsion. Using the standard definition of a monopoly, Microsoft does not now and never has had any kind of monopoly whatsoever in any market segment. Nor do they compel anyone to deal with them. What they do require is that if you want to deal with them, you do so on their terms. That's not compulsion. If you use Microsoft products, you do so voluntarily. No one force you as a consumer or as a manufacturer to purchase or use Microsoft products. Period. 

I'll go further. If Microsoft had included code that was intentionally designed to break competitors' products (which they did not), even that is legitimate competition. They are under no obligation to ensure that competing software functions properly (or at all) with their operating system. They are entitled to take action to make sure competing software does not run on their operating system if they choose to do so. If you don't like that, don't use their operating system, and don't write programs to run on it. There are and always have been numerous viable alternatives to using a Microsoft operating system.

By your standards, any number of manufacturers are guilty of the same practices. If my headlight burns out, it'll cost me a hundred dollars or more to replace the bulb. Why? Because automobile manufacturers intentionally use proprietary designs, not because they are in any way better, but because they are allow the manufacturer to charge ridiculously high prices for replacements. Same thing with inkjet printers. Hewlett-Packard, Epson, and other printer manufacturers can literally afford to give away their printers because they have a monopoly on consumables. Why isn't anyone complaining about that?.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Chuck Waggoner [waggoner at gis dot net]
Sent: Monday, November 08, 1999 2:06 PM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: RE: MS

Actually, I wasn't referring specifically to Microsoft's attempts at 'persuading' ME, although I'll take that one on, too; it's the resellers and other software manufacturers who have been coerced--and they claim they HAVE been compelled to act against their intentions and desires.

Fortunately MS is not yet charging me a higher price for their products if I install something other than Microsoft software, but clearly they,--and others too,--at the least for a time, attempted to disable if not cripple, certain competing software that one may have installed. If they will do that--which certainly harms unsophisticated users,--then I think it's plausible, if left to their own devices, they might yet end up charging us more for installing 'unapproved' software in conjunction with their own, just as they have done with their middlemen.

However, the issue that I was really referring to, were the accounts I have read of trial testimony where it appears pretty clear that MS was not merely negotiating voluntary agreements with their resellers. They were repeatedly applying extreme economic pressure to OEM's, Sun, IBM, and others by saying essentially: you must deal MS' competitors out of your offerings, and your products (like Sun Java) must be used in a manner that we dictate, otherwise it's going to cost you very dearly--life threateningly to your ventures, in fact--to continue doing business with us. This, when those middlemen were not favorably disposed to do it MS' way in the first place: they didn't want to reduce options they offered the marketplace, but had no choice if they wished to remain sellers of MS products.

Now, I'm not a lawyer, but my understanding is--contrary to your notion--that IS against the law, if you are a monopoly. And you ARE a monopoly if a court declares you one.

But, even lacking a court ruling as to monopoly, I don't understand how you can maintain that, just because there are a couple of mighty small niche competitors with little or no chance of gaining significant market share against MS in the foreseeable future, somehow that means there is no monopoly. Do you have to be given exclusive rights by statute, like a utility, before you can be "defined" a monopoly? If your products comprise nearly all that's sold in a given market, and you admit that you don't even check competitors' prices anymore when setting prices for your own products--that's not a monopoly?

It's true that my comparison of bodily harm vs. business harm is not entirely congruent, but just as a person might die from a slug to the body, a figurative shot to the business can kill, too. It certainly killed the consumer's ability to choose OS/2 and to have IBM's continuing support and development of it--not from a lack of IBM's desire to stick with OS/2, but due entirely to MS' economic demands on IBM. And I'm no fan of IBM--they certainly got a dose of their own medicine from Microsoft.

I'm far from a bleeding heart on these issues, but I find myself taking exception with other related points expressed on your page. A significant benefit we have received from the phone company break-up was a significant reduction (unfortunately, not elimination) of one set of telephone charges cross-subsidizing other charges. I'm quite happy that long-distance rates are at last getting to around 5/min; they should have been there a decade ago, and ought to be lower than that, now. Today, in contrast to before the break-up: almost all phone company options can be had la carte; I no longer have to pay an eternal phone company rental on my telephone set; and I can plug nearly any type of telephone device--from a plethora of choices--into the line without getting approval from the phone company. Thank you, Judge Harold Greene (among others).

And before you start in on this one, I agree that the government could go even further in removing obstacles that remain to further unbundling of telephone charges. Maybe competition from the cellular network will cause that to happen.

Microsoft doesn't play fair; they play dirty: first with the middlemen, which ultimately affects our available choices as consumers; so effectively, they are then playing dirty with us. And just because soft drink companies--and IBM--do similarly or the same, doesn't make any of them right in doing it. (You've got to move north sooner than later: we never pay more than 89 for a 2 liter bottle here in New England.)

As far as the individual choosing not to use MS products: at present, that is not really a viable option for most people like us, as we will never again be able to do without computing, and not using Microsoft means--at the very least--time-consuming file conversion problems (also due mostly to MS' craftiness) in interfacing with those who do use Microsoft.

A similar situation exists with credit cards: I wasn't permitted to object when, by changing their contract terms, they all recently disallowed trial by jury, substituting binding arbitration for all disputes that might arise. I don't believe that's constitutional, but my only recourse, as spelled out by the credit card companies, was not to use the card--ever again. That isn't really a viable option in this era, unless you are a recluse. And so it is with Microsoft: not using their products given the present market offerings, is not a viable choice.

Another example exists in the airline industry--as one pundit put it: the only competition that exists among the airlines is to see who can provide the stalest air, the least amount of legroom, the worst meals, and the oldest stewardesses for the highest price. Actually, I find the oldest stewardesses are by far the most effective, but the other items are a problem--perhaps dangerously so.

Unfortunately, I think we are going to face more of this, not less, as businesses absorb each other and the economic baseball bats keep growing bigger--especially when it seems there are always players finding it just too irresistible not to use that bat as a club.

You are right about one thing: I do want things my way; as much on my terms as possible. How that becomes theft if I pay for it, I don't grasp. I certainly don't wield any club over Microsoft; I take their products, warts and all--of which there are many! Given that, and Microsoft's behind-the-scenes attempts to eliminate other computing choices from the marketplace--who is holding a gun to whom!?

I would choose another option--but along the way, Microsoft has eliminated that possibility. And, as Judge Jackson notes: it's quite unlikely that anyone in the current milieu has the economic resources to climb the barriers MS has created and didn't have to climb themselves by virtue of being one of the first on the scene. More money to them for being first on the scene, but don't use the results of that position to bully and prevent others from offering services to me, the consumer. Whether it's a gun or market clout used to achieve that exclusion, it's gangsterism to me.

I'm not saying that government necessarily has all the solutions here. But the Microsoft motto: "do business our way, or do without"--that's not choice to me. And we shouldn't be sitting around doing nothing while such stuff continues.

I judge Jackson to be right: that Microsoft's actions have actually stifled innovation, not helped it. He has done us a favor, here, and in no way should he "rot in hell." Let's hope that sooner than later, we will have the opportunity to complain about somebody else's software, and not just Microsoft's.

All of that may or may not be true, but it's ultimately immaterial. The simple fact is this: appealing to someone's economic interest, no matter how strong that appeal may be, does not constitute compulsion. Compulsion is when someone points a gun at your head and says "do this or I will shoot you." Microsoft has compelled no one, user or ISV, to use their products. Every vendor who uses or writes for Microsoft operating systems does so voluntarily. They may not like the terms that Microsoft enforces, but that does not mean that they are compelled to accept those terms. They are free to use or write for other operating systems. What you and others who argue this view are really arguing is that Microsoft products do not belong to Microsoft. You are implicitly arguing that you have property rights in those products. I say that is wrong, and that if you use the government's force (which is indeed compulsion, because, if you disobey their edicts, a man with a gun eventually shows up to enforce them) you are stealing from Microsoft. If you don't like their terms, don't use their products. Period. Don't insist on using their products on your terms. You don't have that right.

 


 

 

 

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Tuesday, 9 November 1999

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And, of course, at the end of a very long day yesterday, FrontPage 2000 screwed me yet again. All I wanted to do was post the three files that had changed: /index.html; /thisweek.html; and /daynotes/1108RTDN.html. But no. FP2K insisted on uploading my entire site to the server, all several hundred files of it. I hate Microsoft. Not, apparently, as much as many people do, though.

I see on Steve Tucker's web page that Microsoft has released Office 97 SR2b. I'd started to download the 23 MB patch file last night before I noticed that it's not to be run against an Office 97 installation that's already had SR2 applied. I finished the download anyway, because I do occasionally reinstall Office 97.

I see on Tom Syroid's web page that yet another payload virus dangerous to Outlook users has been discovered. Full details are available here.

As usual, I'm exhausted by the end of the day. The good news is that I'm getting more work done on the books. I spent most of today working on case-study systems. This evening, we took my mother out for dinner. Her 81st birthday was yesterday. We took her to The Vineyard, one of the nicer restaurants in Winston-Salem. It's in a former cow barn in Reynolda Village, which used to be the working parts of the R. J. Reynolds estate. 

I thought as we were sitting there that I should be taking notes to aid me in posting a food commentary a la Dr. Keyboard, but food details always escape me. I tend to go for calories, bulk, and flavor rather than the effete kinds of things that Dr. Keyboard talks about. I do remember that I had steak and potatoes, with a fine vintage glass of water. And very good they were, too. The only problem with the place is that it takes two hours to eat dinner. I prefer to eat fast and move on to doing something useful.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Marcia Bilbrey [mailto:marciald@pacbell.net]
Sent: Monday, November 08, 1999 7:39 PM
To: webmaster@ttgnet.com
Cc: Brian Bilbrey
Subject: I get the point!

I empathize with your point to Dr. Keyboard, et al, about regular postings. And, well, okay, fine, if you want to not give a daily update to the rest of the folk about computers and such but, I want my regular, daily Puppy Report!!

How's Malcolm? Is Duncan adjusting well? Other than one mention of when Malcolm was trying to "herd" Duncan, you hadn't mentioned any- thing about his adjustment to the new guy on the block. How's it going?

Malcolm is doing just fine, thanks. He's not noticeably bigger to my eyes, but that's probably because I see him all the time. Malcolm still herds constantly, both people and other dogs. Border Collies just can't help herding. They're hard-wired to herd. They don't even have to think about it. They just do it.

Surprisingly, both Kerry and Duncan are putting up with being herded with only occasional growls or bared fangs, usually when Malcolm comes flying at their faces with his tiny little needle teeth bared. Kerry is actually a lot easier going with Malcolm than he was with Duncan, probably because with Duncan he was in loco parentis, while with Malcolm he's in loco grandparentis.

Malcolm is probably the best and least destructive (at least so far) of any pup I've had. He fangs shoes and stuff, but he hasn't actually chewed anything yet except chew toys and my feet. Come to think of it, I guess he is getting a bit bigger. Here's a picture Barbara took last night of Malcolm bedded down near my night table. Note that, although he appears to have his own pillow, that's in fact being used to stuff the gap behind the bed so that he can't get trapped back there, which he's done once already.

malcolm_under_nightstand.jpg (45747 bytes)

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Joshua D. Boyd [mailto:jdboyd@cs.millersv.edu]
Sent: Monday, November 08, 1999 7:38 PM
To: Robert Bruce Thompson
Subject: RE: Web pages and browser dominance

I don't doubt that Mozilla 5 will "ship". As far as Netscape 5, it is quite possible that it won't. AOL doesn't seem to be putting many resources behind Mozilla any more, so even when Mozilla does get to a stable point, it wouldn't suprise me if Netscape didn't release a version on it.

I don't know that Mozilla will have a large impact on the browser market alone. Your right, the desktop browser market is pretty much sealed up. However, being free, Mozilla could quite likely make a big dent in the browser market via the embeded/set top/what ever the rest of the world is going to use as a computer. It's modular design would make it easy to strip down to something that could run on a palm pilot, let alone items that run through TV sets.

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

I sure hope you're right about Mozilla. There's nothing I'd like better than an alternative to IE5. I really dislike IE5, but it's worlds ahead of the current versions of Navigator and Opera. If Mozilla ever ships a browser, I'll certainly try it.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Jan Swijsen [mailto:qjsw@oce.nl]
Sent: Tuesday, November 09, 1999 4:19 AM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: Re: Microsoft, +

Where did I say that I believe Microsoft has a monopoly? My opinion is that the 'findings of facts' are all true. The DOJ has found lots of facts. Non of which is, in itself, cause for punishment. Taken together they are heavy enough for a stern reprimand.

On the compulsion side you are wrong. Although that is not a direct result of MS. The company I work for now has a policy to use Microsoft products exclusively. So I am obliged to use MS products. Ex for a course I had to give I wanted to use Screencam for which there is no equivalent MS product. That was not allowed simply because it was not a MS product. I had the choice of using PowerPoint or ... . That is compulsion. But, as I said this is not a direct result of Microsoft actions. Well I don't know what contract they have but I would be surprise if that would exclude MS competitors.

If I read the articles about the Caldera vs MS case your second paragraph seems to be incorrect but then I must rely on press articles and they typically are less reliable than you are. So what is actually happening? I think I best forget about it all and look back in a few years time, after the dust has settled.

Indeed I don't understand what a monopoly is. Nor what compulsion is.

monopoly n. (pl. -ies) 1 a exclusive possession or control of the trade in a commodity or service. b this conferred as a privilege by the State. 2 (foll. by of, US on) exclusive possession, control, or exercise. [Greek poleo sell] compulsion n. 1 compelling or being compelled; obligation. 2 irresistible urge. [Latin: related to *compel]

I mean, I know what they mean but not what the law means by them. What I understand all too well is that MS will now be called to court by all kinds of firms. This is a golden time for lawyers but the rest of the US pays for it.

BTW light bulbs in cars are rather standard here in Europe. Unless you go for custom 'enhancements' that is.

Svenson.

PS Are the computers of the US courts Y2K proof. For once I hope they aren't :-)

But the entire core of this case devolves from the question of whether or not Microsoft is a monopoly. They clearly aren't, by any reasonable definition of the term, and if they aren't there's no reason for the proceedings. The government is not prosecuting Microsoft. They're persecuting them. And all because they're successful, god forbid. I think Mr. Gates' best option at this point would be to (a) buy a country of his own, (b) declare war on the United States, and (c) send teams of assassins to kill every politician and bureaucrat in Washington DC and all the state capitals.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Chuck Waggoner [waggoner at gis dot net]
Sent: Tuesday, November 09, 1999 11:07 AM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: RE: MS

I just plain can't agree that a gun is the only thing which can compel another person to act against their will, or to do something their will and conscience wouldn't ordinarily have them do--although some, like you, may be less susceptible than others. Brute force isn't the only thing civilized societies protect against. History is replete with examples that a promise of--or threat against--money, sex, and land or property, are right up there--probably in that order--in compelling people to act against conscience and intentions. To bring us into the 20th century, we may even have to add drugs to that list.

It's not okay, as you imply, to employ any behavior, as long as it isn't physical force.

And if it's theft for me to advocate government intervention to prevent a certain behavior of a company like Microsoft, then it's also theft for that company to manipulate markets by using economic threats to eliminate from the marketplace, products I might use, instead of theirs.

I am not advocating that I have property rights in anything of Microsoft's before I purchase it. However, I am insisting that if a company, by their own actions, deprived the marketplace of products and competition and thereby derived an exclusive benefit, then that company has robbed the marketplace, and there needs to be both compensation, and a stop put to that practice--regardless of whether I buy that product or not.

Good business, good politics, good relations, good behavior, or a good life can't be based on allowing one party alone to dictate terms to another. There are other responsibilities and protocols to life than "it's mine and I can do anything I want--like it or lump it." If there weren't, we'd be beyond anarchy--we'd either be children, or barbarians.

It's not a matter of you agreeing. The meaning of "compel" is not a matter for debate. See your nearest dictionary. One synonym for "to compel" is "to force", and that's significant. Compulsion requires the use or threatened use of force. I never said that brute force was the only thing that civilized societies condemn. The others are such things as fraud, violations of contracts, and infringing on property rights. A truly civilized society limits its interventions to such clear-cut cases. 

We do not have a civilized society now, or even anything approaching one. We are less civilized now than we were twenty or fifty years ago. But not in the sense that you are probably thinking. I'm not talking about increased violence, which is largely overstated anyway. I'm talking about the government imposing constraints on voluntary interactions between consenting adults and forbidding personal activities which are not the business of a reasonable government. 

And I never said that any behavior was acceptable that did not involve initiating force against another. I also rule out fraud, theft, and numerous other activities forbidden by common law. 

Nor does your theft analogy hold up. Microsoft is perfectly entitled to do its damnedest to drive other companies out of business. That's called competition. It's a Good Thing, although no one seems to realize that nowadays.

I agree with your final paragraph, but it's you who are dictating, not Microsoft. Microsoft dictates to no one. They do not force anyone to buy or use their products. If you use Microsoft products, you do so voluntarily. If you don't like the products or the company, don't use Microsoft products. But you, you want to dictate terms to Microsoft. You did nothing to create their software, and yet you seem to think you have some right to tell them how they can and can't choose to sell it. It's not your software. It's theirs. If you don't like their terms, you don't have to deal with them. It seems to me that it's you advocating behaving like a barbarian. You see something. You want it. You take it. That's what you're advocating.

 


 

 

 

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Wednesday, 10 November 1999

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I'm working today, as I have been doing for the last couple of weeks, on the chapter that describes designing and building a PC. What I'm finding is that what I consider to be a simple process is in fact very complicated when it comes to describing it step-by-step in print. There are so many dependencies and conditional branches that it's difficult to maintain flow. "Well, yes, but what if you're using an AT motherboard instead of an ATX?" And so on. 

Most of you reading this page can probably assemble a PC without thinking much about it. Explaining it all without ending up with a mass of spaghetti instructions is another matter entirely. And documenting each step and sub-step individually (along with photographing it) turns what would normally be a one hour process into something that takes weeks.

Interesting article in the paper this morning. An independent poll of about 1,200 American adults says that about 2/3 of those polled support the position of Gates and Microsoft while less than 1/5 support the position of Jackson and the DoJ. There may be hope for this country yet. Average people admire Bill Gates and Microsoft, and apparently consider the DoJ persecution to be a witch-hunt, which indeed it is.

The puppy is getting crafty, very crafty. Barbara went over to her parents' house today to help her dad with yard work. Both big dogs were confined downstairs, but I kept Malcolm up here with me. He was back in the bedroom taking a nap (he naps constantly and you can watch him grow while he naps). As I was working at my desk, I heard a crash back in the bedroom. I went running back there, afraid that Malcolm had hurt himself. It took me probably all of five seconds to get back there. When I arrived, I found that Barbara's tape player had been pulled off her nightstand. Malcolm was on the dog bed at the foot of our bed, lying on his side with his eyes closed, faking sleep. When I said, "What did you do?", he opened his eyes, yawned, and stretched. Five seconds, mind. I am not making this up. 

Some might suspect that he'd pulled the tape player nearly off the nightstand sometime before, leaving it teetering on the edge, where it happened to fall off as he really was napping. I know better. Border Collies are crafty, and they don't hesitate to lie when it serves their purposes. Our first Border Collie used to fake an injured paw to get sympathy and avoid being yelled at when she'd done something wrong. My mother wouldn't believe my brother or me, until one day we told her to watch which paw the dog was favoring. Sure enough, the dog started out limping on one side and was later seen limping on the other. Border Collies are crafty, but this one at least wasn't real clear on the difference between her left and right paw.

I kind of like posting updates as the mood strikes rather than on a schedule, so I think I'll keep doing it this way. Before, I felt under the gun to get something written and posted. Now, I'll just do it whenever I feel like doing so. That means I may post at any time during the day or evening. I may even, sacre bleu!, skip a day. 

As my regular readers have probably sensed, I'm a very competitive sort of guy. When I played tennis seriously, I used to try to beat my opponent love, love, and love. In fact, I tried to keep him from winning even a single point. When I played mixed doubles, I tried to intimidate the opposing woman, reducing her to tears if possible. They say that Bet-a-Million Gates would bet large sums of money on things as trivial as which raindrop would slide down a window first or which sugar cube a fly would pick to land on. I feel the same way about competition. Any time, any way, with anyone. I've been treating this journal like a competition. Get something up first. Make it longer than other people's posts, and so on. Maybe I'm getting older, but that no longer seems necessary or even desirable. I'll post what I have to say when I feel like saying it. I won't post reader mail simply to provide a forum for disputation. Or so I intend. It'll be interesting to see if I can overcome my nature and habit.

One interesting result of shifting from the regular morning posts has been a great increase in page counts. People stop by, do a refresh, find nothing new, and come back later. My page counts for yesterday and today are significantly higher than before, well up into four figures. That also means, of course, that my Status Code reports are shifting. It used to be that my mix was something like 90% "200 - OK" and 10% "304 - Not modified since last retrieval". That ratio is plummeting towards a Pournelle-like 67/33 or even 50/50. So the page count increase is really artificial. It just means that I'm forcing people to check more often, and they're coming up empty more often. I guess that's a small price to pay. Better still, it's not me paying it.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: ROBERT RUDZKI [mailto:rasterho@pacbell.net]
Sent: Tuesday, November 09, 1999 9:47 PM
To: Robert Bruce Thompson
Subject: Automatic publishing of your email and the perfidy of oil companies

Rather than spending time on hand massaging your email and posting a comment on each one which must take no little time, why not automate the process?

Just feed the stream of email chronologically into text boxes placed on a html page this will keep the original formatting then just squirt it up to your 'unedited email' page each day. Or can you just feed the email stream into a listserv and publish it that way?

Then just post and comment on the letters you find worthwhile, this will save you time and we can read all your incoming mail, kooks and all! You might have to use a different email address for your private and personal stuff since you may not want that appearing automatically.

The TV news just did a huge oil refinery fire report in Wilmington, gas prices will jump 10-15 cents tomorrow as they always do in California when anything bad happens in the oil business anywhere in the world.

When the Exxon Valdez ran aground on that rock ridge and made a mess of Alaska's coast, gas jumped 20-30 cents and stayed that way for more than 2 years!

My wife claims the reason for that is there is only one American oil tanker shared among all the oil companies, they just paint different colors and names on it when it moves from port to port and when it was out of commission for those 2 years the oil companies had to raise prices to cover their costs...

The California EPA made the refineries add MTBE or ethanol to gas sold here to help fight smog they said, and prices shot 10-15 cents per gallon overnight, although the TV and newspapers kept telling us it would only add a couple of cents to the price.

When asked to explain the large price increase the oil companies said there is only one refinery on the West Coast [served by the only oil tanker in America!] and it is really hard to add this stuff to the finished gasoline, we've never done this before, the learning curve is steep, etc.

Gas mileage decreased by 10% as far as I [and others] noticed, Cal EPA said it was all in our imagination but would not release any test results showing that MTBE did NOT harm gas mileage and just refused to talk about it.

Then the water agencies reported finding the stuff in drinking water wells and reservoirs in much bigger amounts than they had estimated. Letting SeaDoos dump 2.5 gallons of raw fuel into the water per hour from the inefficient 2-stroke engines seems crazy to me, but we must not frustrate our water-sport lovers and marinas that cater to them. It now turns out MTBE is a potent carcinogen and does not readily breakdown over time to less harmful chemicals.

So California banned MTBE from gasoline and the oil companies are warning us gas prices will have to increase again, '5-7 cents per gallon' which is oil company code for 15-20 cents per gallon! This additional cost is to NOT to put in a chemical that was only supposed to add '2 cents per gallon' when they DID put it in!

So for the last year or more we pay $1.27 to $1.47 per gallon for regular and Arizona pays 89 cents! There was talk of auditing the oil companies and distributors to see where that premium is really going, but the oil companies give a lot of money to our legislature, not that they would ever shirk their duties to the voters to oversee large suppliers of essential fuel stocks gouging the public... =8^-)

Think of a guy fishing at the end of a pier on a lake. Every hour he looks at his alarm wrist watch and walks back to his pickup parked on the land near the pier's head. He reaches into the bed and takes out a 5-gallon can full of gasoline and walks back to the end of the pier where his fishing gear is. He removes the cap and pours the entire 5 gallons of gasoline into the lake. He repeats this every hour during the daylight hours. [He has a LOT of 5-gallon cans in that pickup bed...]

Sounds crazy, illegal and just not a good idea? Now imagine the same guy driving a 7000-pound SUV towing 2 SeaDoo's on a trailer headed for that same lake's boat launch ramp... For every hour of operation a SeaDoo uses 10 gallons of gas, 2.5 gallons of which end up in the water!

I talked with a reporter from our local newspaper about an article where the logical conclusions drawn from some included statistics were completely at odds with the reality, and she said by way of explanation the entire Metro section is history and English majors no one has a science or mathematical background, and they really didn't understand all this science and demographics stuff...

And she was not joking, I am sorry to report.

Robert Rudzki
rasterho@pacbell.net
http://home.pacbell.net/rasterho
"If we succeed in banning cheap unreliable handguns, does it mean that thugs will now use expensive and highly dependable handguns to rob and kill us...?"

You're probably right. What I should really do is bring up a discussion forum, but I simply have no time to do that. As far as responding, it's my competitive nature. Someone makes a comment with which I disagree, and I feel compelled to rebut it.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: ROBERT RUDZKI [mailto:rasterho@pacbell.net]
Sent: Tuesday, November 09, 1999 11:19 PM
To: Robert Bruce Thompson
Subject: Food is merely fuel for the body...

Actually just eating food to feel full is secondary to spending money at a fancy restaurant, you go for the ambiance, to impress your date or business partners, to see celebrities if you have any locally besides 'Marlboro men' , to have the waiter sneer at you and your party if it is the French style of restaurant Americans really enjoy, thinking they have got their money's worth...

Sheesh if you just want lots of bulk and calories, nip on down to your Piggly-Wiggly, score 2 huge 2" thick rib-eyes, 2 huge Idahoes, a half-pint of sour cream, fresh cream unsalted butter, 1 pack of frozen baby limas and a pack of frozen baby petite cut corn. Fire up the barbecue grill, wrap the Idahoes in foil, smash the Beauileau Latour Private Reserve bottleneck[s] off on the brick edge of the barbecue and carefully pour into Styrofoam cups... Mind you this is a meal for 2 people. =8^-)

ChrisWJ would pay at least double if he had to buy the same items at a Brit food store their prices are like 40% higher than the rest of Europe and certainly far more than we pay here.

I'm no more interesting in a fine dining experience for myself than I am in a fine fueling experience for my car. Eating is simply a task that needs to be done so that I can get on with doing stuff I want to do. I do understand that others enjoy "dining" as opposed to "eating" but I'm not sure why. I'd much rather be reading, or writing, or just about anything else.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Jan Swijsen [mailto:qjsw@oce.nl]
Sent: Wednesday, November 10, 1999 5:38 AM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: Re: Microsoft, +

Kill every politician in Washington and the states? Aren't you being a bit selfish? We have politicians to be shot here as well you know. I noticed that the MS stock was down by over 8%, a loss of about 30billion. Maybe MS could sue the government for damages. Real damages. If they handle that case a bit better than this one they stand a chance of winning. So the sequence becomes :

a. bankrupt the government

b. buy a country (maybe the US itself, which would be the end of it)

c. declare war on the US (which, being bankrupt, cannot defend itself. Remember the cruse missiles are all used up :) .

d. send assassins to politicians (all over the world)

There is one thing to notice. The court has not made a decision on what it will do, it has only decided (not determined) that MS is guilty. If MS plays it right in the interval the end ruling could be quite favourable. Maybe people start thinking now. Maybe ... Maybe the next sequel is called 'The empire strikes back'.

One thing is certain, US is looking increasingly silly. (Not that they had a glorious image to begin with :-)

Well, I do think they need to modify the laws to legalize shooting politicians. We should have an open season each year. When I was growing up in Pennsylvania, "Opening Day" was nearly an official state holiday. They didn't need to say opening day of what. All routine business stopped as everyone headed for the woods to shoot a deer. We could have the same thing for politicians. I can see it now. Everyone proudly returning home with a dead politician roped across their hood. I can think of several politicians that I'd love to have stuffed and mounted over my fireplace. Some might claim that this would quickly put politicians on the endangered species list, but that's all to the good.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Loretz Dennis J SSgt 4 LSS/LGLX
[mailto:dennis.loretz@seymourjohnson.af.mil]
Sent: Wednesday, November 10, 1999 8:13 AM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: Batch file for backup

You mentioned on Monday that you use a batch file to do a backup. Care to share any wisdom on creating one? I've been playing with a simple copy of folders and sub-folder/files (none system files) to a Zip drive, and am having little success (all those switches drive me crazy). Appreciate the help!!

Thanks, 
Dennis Loretz

Sure. I used to have an amazingly complex batch file that tried to do all sorts of neat things, but I ended up using a pretty simple one, as follows:

@echo off
cls
g:
cd \databack\usr
xcopy f:\usr\*.* /s /e /a /c
f:
cd \usr
attrib *.* -a /s

This file is stored as Databack.bat in the root of the C: drive on kerby, my main workstation. Kerby maps F: to the main shared volume on theodore, which is Barbara's main workstation as well as the main shared network data store, and G: to a shared volume on a third system (formerly local C: on odin; now local G: on kiwi.) 

This batch file makes G: the current drive, changes to the \databack\usr directory on G:, and then starts the xcopy. The /s switch tells xcopy to copy subdirectories of f:\usr; the /e switch tells it to copy subdirectories that contain no files; the /a switch tells it to copy only files that have the archive bit set on (those that have been created or changed since the last backup); the /c switch tells xcopy to continue the operation even if it encounters an error (such as Barbara's Outlook .pst file being open during the copy). Without that /c switch, xcopy blows up and dies on the first error it encounters.

Once the xcopy operation completes, the batch file makes F: (the main data volume) the current drive, changes to the /usr directory, and runs attrib. The attrib command sets the archive bit off for all files (the -a switch), and processes subdirectories (the /s switch). The result of running the batch file is that all changed files on the main shared data volume in the /usr directory and its subdirectories are copied to the hard drive of another system. Once that copy completes, all /usr files on the main shared data volume are marked as being backed up, so the next time the batch file is run it copies only files that have been created or changed since the last time it was run.

* * * * *

In accord with Rudzki's suggestion, I've decided to stop doing so much reformatting work on the messages I receive, starting now. I hope it will still be clear who said what in messages that include quotes from earlier messages. At any rate, it cuts down the average time I spend formatting messages from probably a minute to probably 15 seconds. I guess that's a worthwhile gain. 

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Jan Swijsen [mailto:qjsw@oce.nl]
Sent: Wednesday, November 10, 1999 11:41 AM
To: Robert Bruce Thomson
Subject: food.

>I prefer to eat fast and move on to doing something useful. 

Eating is about the most useful thing one can do. Of course if you don't think it is useful you could always stop it :-) 

>If you don't like the products or the company, don't use Microsoft products. 

OK. I don't like them. I use their product as little as possible (but I don't have a choice at work). I did buy DR-DOS and I did buy OS/2 and Lotus SmartSuite and WordPerfect. See, I do (try to) eat my own dog food. What I don't like is that when I buy a new computer I get their stuff included. And that is not free, I do pay for it. That is caused by the contracts they foist upon resellers. They (the resellers) are only offered a contract for all the boxes they ship or for none. So if they want to give their customers a choice the take no contract and buy MS products a retail prices. What MS really says here 'do what we say or we kill you (your business)'.

It is not "You see something. You want it. You take it." It is rather "You see something. You want it. You pay for it. And you pay on top for something you don't want."

Yet another metaphor for you to shoot at: You buy a car and you want Pirelli tires. The dealer says sorry we only sell with GoodYear. Can you buy that car without tires? May be but most likely the price remains the same. Buy at another dealer? Sorry but all dealers have the same contract with Goodyear except the Trabant dealers. And Rolls Royce.

I don't like them but I don't want them destroyed. What I (vainly?) hope is that, for example, they are forced to re-evaluate/re-negociate all their contracts.

(ps I hope this is the last about MS, I mean the mails, not the company.)

>I can think of several politicians that I'd love to have stuffed and mounted over my fireplace. 

Yekes, do you really want to look at a politicians head every day? I know much better things to hang over my fireplace.

In your warning you say :"...sometimes things don't go as planned...". Now THAT is surprising (just ask Microsoft, or Tom, or ... well just about anybody :-).

Useful was probably the wrong word. "Interesting" is more like it. I'm going to die long before I have time to read all of the books on my "must read" list. When compared to a priority like that, spending two hours having dinner is a conspicuous waste of time.

As far as politicians, I don't like being anywhere near live ones, but having a dead and stuffed one over my mantel would be different. I'd much rather have Bill Clinton's head over my fireplace than, say, a record setting trophy moose. I wonder if the taxidermist could preserve his green hair?

 


 

 

 

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Thursday, 11 November 1999

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Today is Veteran's Day in the United States and Remembrance Day in Canada. Whatever you call it, today is a day to think about those who fought to protect our freedoms, and to give thanks to them for what they did for us. My father died in 1990, and I still think about him most days. But I particularly think about him today. 

In 1971, the year I turned 18, the Viet Nam war was winding down. But my lottery number came up 69, so there was still a good chance I'd be drafted and sent to Viet Nam. My father was dead-set against the anti-war protesters, so I expected him to tell me to do my duty and go if sent. He didn't do that, but I didn't find out until years later how he really felt. After he died, my mother told me about their private conversations at the time they learned about my low lottery number. My father had decided that if I were drafted, he would take me to the airport and get on a plane with me to Canada or Sweden. It never came to that. I wasn't drafted, and so I never had to fight. I was lucky.

My father, and his father, were not so lucky. Both of them knew war. My grandfather fought in World War I, but he died in 1962 when I was only 9, so he never told me much about his experiences in the trenches. My father didn't talk much about his experiences either. He flew with the Eight Air Force over Nazi Germany as a navigator on a B-17. Whenever I asked him about it, he'd change the subject. But once, when I was perhaps 14 or 16, he did talk to me at some length about what it was like. I think we'd just watched Twelve O'Clock High or some similar movie. The conversation went something like this:

Me: "God, Dad, those fighters must have been awful." 

Dad: "They were, but they weren't the worst part. At least you could shoot back at them. We knew we were in trouble on the way in to target when the fighters disappeared, because that meant we were coming into the flak belt over target. Flak was worse than the fighters because there was nothing you could do about it. If it hit you, it hit you, and there were times that it was so thick that you could just about get out and walk on it. 

When we got to the IP, the pilot turned control of the aircraft over to the bombardier. From that point until bomb release, we had to fly straight and level, right through the heaviest flak concentration. You couldn't dodge it. You just had to take it.

It was always a madhouse over target. Planes blowing up in a sudden white flash or suddenly dropping out of formation as flak chopped off a wing or cut them in half. They never show it in the movies, but it wasn't uncommon for two B17's to collide over target. Sometimes, one guy would be too high or too low, and one bomber would drop its load right on top of another one. And the whole time the flak made it sound like you were flying through the worst thunderstorm you've ever heard, with chunks of shrapnel punching holes in the plane."

Me: "So the flak was the worst part?"

Dad: "No, the trip home was worse. After we dropped, we'd peel off and head for the exit route. The flak dropped off some, because the Germans were mainly interested in the incoming bombers rather than the departing ones, but there was still flak. We knew that when the flak stopped, the fighters would be waiting for us. By then, we were less able to defend ourselves against fighters than we had been on the way in. We flew in a combat box, with each bomber's guns protecting not just itself but the other bombers in the box. On the way out, we'd sometimes lost one or two bombers from the box, which left gaps in the coverage. The fighters were very good at exploiting those gaps. Sometimes a stray bomber would join the box to fill a gap, but we were usually hurting by the time the fighters hit us on the way out. Many of the bombers had gunners that had been wounded or killed, and everyone was low on ammunition. The fighters hurt us badly on the way out.

But if you were lucky you got past the fighters and back within range of the P47s. It wasn't over then, though, not by a long shot. We flew daylight raids, and by the time we got back to England it was usually at least twilight. On longer missions, it was sometimes nearly full dark.  Just imagine a thousand bombers trying to find their way home in the dark, all of them low on gas, and many of them with wounded aboard. There were constant radio calls from planes that were lost or about to ditch.

Even when you found your base, the problems weren't over. Some of the planes were so badly shot up that they couldn't lower their landing gear or had lost their flight controls. Or the pilots were wounded so badly that they couldn't land the plane. They brought in the bombers with badly wounded guys aboard first if at all possible. Those planes were usually the ones that had been shot up the worst, so it wasn't uncommon to see burning wreckage on the runway. Once we got on the ground, it was like a charnel house. There were dead and wounded all over the place, but the body parts were the really sickening thing.

Me: "So I guess coming home was the worst part?"

Dad: "No, that was pretty bad, but it wasn't the worst. The worst part was taking off. They crammed those planes so full of gas and bombs that they could barely make it off the runway. When we started our takeoff roll, the pilot would run up the engines to maximum power and then release the brakes. We'd start to roll, but very slowly. It took forever to gain speed, and the pilot would keep the stick hard forward to keep that truck on the ground until he'd used up every inch of runway. When he finally rotated, he'd raise the landing gear just as the plane left the ground and start clawing for altitude. We'd be only ten feet off the ground for quite a ways after takeoff, so trees and telephone lines were a deadly hazard, even those far from the end of the runway. If you lost an engine during climbout, you were dead. More than a few planes never made it off the ground, or pancaked in shortly after takeoff. If you went in, you were dead, because the gasoline and bombs went up instantly.

Once you made it off the ground, everybody was thinking about what was to come. You knew you might be shot down, but that was just the luck of the draw. We knew we might be killed, but most guys didn't really think it would ever be their turn. Being wounded was something else altogether. What terrified a lot of us was the thought of getting our private parts shot off. They gave us flak jackets, but a lot of guys sat on them instead of wearing them. We knew that if we were wounded on the way in to target, it might be as much as 12 hours before we'd return home to get medical attention. The thought of having to endure 12 hours of agony terrified us. So I guess it was the anticipation more than the actuality that scared us. Getting shot at was bad, but you were too busy to think about it much as it was actually happening. It was that long ride in, when you had time to think, when we all had nightmares even though we were wide awake."

My dad was 21 years old when he went through this. And not just once. He did it over and over. At least the Americans recognized that no one could do that indefinitely and stay sane. The American Army Air Corps defined twenty-five missions as a tour of duty. Twenty-five. I can't imagine flying one such mission, let alone twenty-five of them. After you did your twenty-five, you were eligible to be rotated home, although many, including my dad, re-upped. But at that, the Americans were better than the other nations. If you flew for Britain, Germany, Russia, and the other combatants, you flew until the war was over or you were dead. 

I don't think that any of us who have not gone to war can even imagine what it must be like. So, to my dad and all the other brave men like him, my heartfelt thanks. They did that so we wouldn't have to.

 



FedEx showed up this morning with a 32 MB SmartMedia card for my Olympus D-400Z. So I popped it right in, of course. This is a very nice upgrade. It has four times the image storage capacity of the 8 MB SmartMedia card that came with the camera, of course, but the difference is more than simply quantitative. 

After experimenting with the four image storage modes supported by the Olympus D-400Z (SQ, 640X480; HQ, 1280X960 w/ moderate compression; SHQ, 1280X960 with light compression; Uncompressed, 1280X960 TIFF) I concluded that it made sense to use SHQ mode all the time. The uncompressed mode is nice, but it allows storing only two images on an 8 MB card, and the image quality isn't much better than SHQ mode, which stores 18 to 20 images on that same card. With the camera set to SHQ mode, the 32 MB card shows 73 images available, about the equivalent of three standard rolls of 35mm film.

The reason that there's a qualitative difference has to do with the way the D400-Z names image files, in the form MDDNNNNN.jpg. The first byte indicates the month in hexadecimal (November is "B"). The next two bytes indicate the day of the month in decimal. The final five bytes increment decimally for each picture. For example, if I start with an empty SmartMedia card and take two photographs today, the filenames will be B1100001.jpg and B1100002.jpg. If I then set the camera overnight and take two more photographs tomorrow, the filenames will be B1200003.jpg and B1200004.jpg. 

If I then remove the card from the camera, move those four image files from the SmartMedia card to my computer, reinsert the now-blank SmartMedia card in my camera, and take two more photographs, they'll be named B1200001.jpg and B1200002.jpg. So far, no problem. All file names are unique. The problem arises if I then take two more photos. The filenames for those will be B1200003.jpg and B1200004.jpg, the same filenames as for the first two photos taken that day. If I transfer those  last two photos to the computer, they can't be moved to the same folder as the earlier photos because of the duplicate filenames.

The problem is that I often shoot enough photos during a daily session that I need to transfer them from the 8 MB SmartMedia card to make room for more. So I end up with duplicate filenames. With the 32 MB SmartMedia card, I'll be able to just continue shooting. The 8 MB card is rated for 18 SHQ images, but I almost always get 19, and perhaps a tenth of the time I get 20. That means that the 32 MB card should nearly always allow storing 75+ images, which should do me for a daily shoot.

The real solution would be if I could somehow set the camera to continue incrementing the image number regardless of how many images are stored on the current card. That is, it should start at 1 and just continue incrementing until it reaches 99,999. The filename format implies that this must be possible (why else use five digits for the image number?), but I can't figure out how to do it. I saw mention that the Olympus C2020 (or perhaps it was the D450-Z) has that capability, so I'm hoping the D400-Z does also. I scanned through the manual twice trying to find out how to do it, but without success. I've now mailed Olympus to ask them.

Malcolm is Duncan's half-brother, and the family relationship is obvious in a lot of ways, from shared behavioral oddities to the way they keep their paws tucked in when they're sleeping on their sides. One of the similarities is their attitude toward puppy pads, those absorbent, water-proof pads that one puts down as a target for a pup that isn't quite house-trained yet. When Duncan was that age, he liked nothing better than to grab a puppy pad (new or used, it made no difference) and parade proudly around the house carrying it with head held high. He'd then shred it into small pieces. Malcolm acts the same way.

Barbara, thinking that she's craftier than any young pup--Malcolm turns 7 weeks today--decided to use chemical warfare. Our veterinarian had given her a tube of Yuk!, which tastes horrible to dogs (and people). The instructions said to smear a small amount on the pup's lips and tongue to show it how bad the stuff tasted. We expected that both of us would have to hold Malcolm down while Barbara put the Yuk! on his tongue. The first sign that all was not likely to go as expected was when Malcolm started licking the stuff off her finger. Hmm. Perhaps there's a delayed reaction, we thought. 

So Barbara spread some more Yuk! on the edge of the puppy pad and we waited a while. Eventually, Malcolm ambled over and sniffed the pad. The stuff actually worked, although not as the makers intended. Instead of shredding the pad, Malcolm lay there licking all the Yuk! off of it. So I now have a tube of Yuk! sitting on my end table. When Malcolm is a particularly good puppy, I'll reward him by putting some on my finger and letting him lick it off.

There's lots of good mail, but I don't have time to post it now. Perhaps later today. Barbara has left this morning to drive up to a conference just west of Asheville, which is about a three hour drive from here. So it's just me, my mother, and the dogs. Barbara will be back tomorrow evening, for which I am sincerely thankful. I tried to convince her that she should take the puppy with her, but she was not amused.

Evening: I see that books.com is no more, having apparently found itself unable to compete with Amazon.com. The books.com URL is now pointing customers to Barnes & Noble, who are offering a $10 off coupon on any purchase of $25 or more.

 

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Brian Bilbrey [mailto:bilbrey@pacbell.net]
Sent: Wednesday, November 10, 1999 6:37 PM
To: webmaster@ttgnet.com
Subject: Sporadic Postings...

Hola, Senor Thompson,

Getting older... nah, I prefer to believe we age like a good wine, or a Mercedes, rather than, say, last year's Canon printer. :(

Now overcoming one's own nature and habit is something very interesting and challenging. Giving up long standing behavior patterns of any kind are often roads fraught with peril (and the good Sir Robin says "Please, can I have just a little peril? Please?). But being a type triple-alpha bears its own hazards, as I am sure you know.

Ah, yes, but the problem is that I'm about as far from an "A-type" personality as is possible to imagine. I smoke a pipe. It's very hard to get me angry or upset. I'm pretty level emotionally, getting neither very happy nor very sad. I'm not the slightest bit impulsive. In other words, I'm a classic "Type-B" personality. Don't make the mistake of thinking that we Type-Bs can't be competitive. We can. In a laid-back way, of course.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Alan Donders [mailto:alan_donders@hotmail.com]
Sent: Wednesday, November 10, 1999 10:15 PM
To: jerryp@jerrypournelle.com
Cc: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: Forget MS / Break Up The Patent Office

Paraphrasing from an article today via the Newhouse News Service...

The US Patent Office, in September 1998, issued US Patent #5,806,063 to the McDonnell Douglas Corporation on behalf of an employee, Bruce Dickens. The Boeing Corp., which had acquired McDonnell Douglas, was not interested in the patent and gave it to Dickens.

The patent is titled "Date Formatting and Sorting for Dates Spanning the Turn of the Century" which, in layman's terms, is the 'windowing technique' currently being used extensively to remediate computer programs for their Y2K date problems.

Now comes the good part. Dickens is attempting to secure licensing fees from major corporations, most of which have adopted 'windowing' as their preferred Y2K remediation method. And the money he is seeking is very, very, very big. For a $5 million gross revenue company, the fee would be $1.25 million up front plus $5000 a month for 20 years (the life of the patent).

Perhaps its time to re-examine the Patent Office's policies regarding granting patents to computer software???

I agree with you completely. Software should not be patentable. In fact, I would like to see the PTO abolished entirely.

And this followup:

Regarding the complete abolishment of the PTO, do you think there should be any type of protection for "real" inventions?

No, I do not. The theory is that the patent system encourages invention and innovation by giving the inventor a monopoly on the use of that invention for a certain period. But in fact, the whole patent system stifles innovation. People and companies will not cease to innovate simply because what they invent is not protected against others using it. Inventors will invent, because that's what inventors do. People and companies will continue to innovate in order to take advantage of the short-term benefits of doing so, such as surviving against the competition. Everyone will benefit when everyone can freely build upon the current art. Nearly everything is based on prior art, anyway. The number of truly innovative deus ex machina inventions is vanishingly small.

Incidentally, I hold the same positions about other intellectual property issues, such as copyright and trademark law. In the long run, none of them benefit anyone but lawyers. Someone once asked why I copyright my stuff if I believe that there should be no copyrights. My answer is that we have to play by the rules that are in force. If there were no copyrights, I'd be happy. Because there are copyrights, those of us who do not admire the concept are forced to play by the rules that others insist upon.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: KDBABIE519@aol.com [mailto:KDBABIE519@aol.com]
Sent: Thursday, November 11, 1999 12:09 AM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: tapping phone lines

HI... I was wondering if you could give me information on how to tap someones phone line. I think my phone line is being tapped by someone that lives in Michigan. Can you do it over the computer or do you have to be in the same location as the person. Also, is there anyway that you can track down the numbers the individual whose phone line is being tapped calls??? If you could help me that would be great. Thanks

A phone tap can be installed at various locations. Those done privately are normally placed somewhere between the telephone instrument itself and the telco demarc. Placing one between the demarc and the CO risks having a phone technician notice it. Wiretaps made by law-enforcement agencies are done with the co-operation of the phone company and are ordinarily undetectable. They are placed on the telco side of the demarc, normally at the main distribution frame. With the increasing use of digital switches over the past decade or more, there is no longer any need to connect a physical wire. A phone line can be tapped under programmatic control, simply routing the digital data stream to a second location, where it can be recorded for future use. Recording called numbers is trivially easy. All you need is a "digit grabber" connected to the phone line. These used to use pens and graph paper, but they've been all electronic for years, and can record either pulse or tone digits.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Sjon Svenson [mailto:sjon@svenson.com]
Sent: Thursday, November 11, 1999 7:22 AM
To: Robert Thompson
Subject: witch hunt :-)

> ... and apparently consider the DoJ persecution to be a witch-hunt, which indeed it is. 

With all these Wizards in Microsoft products he surely is on to something :-)

>I may even, sacre bleu!, skip a day. 

You realize, I hope, that you will get some fierce lashing from Dr Key-pad, oups Keyboard, when you dare to skip.

>The attrib command sets the archive bit off for all files (the -a switch), and processes subdirectories (the /s switch). 

In DOS the /m switch on xcopy sets the archive bit off directly after copying. Using this you can reduce the size and complexity of the backup batch file even more. And it runs (a little) faster. (attachment lists all xcopy switches). Maybe NT doesn't have that switch.

Windows NT xcopy also supports the /m switch, which functions as you describe it. I actually used the /m switch in an earlier version of my batch file, but stopped using it and switched to using /a and then explicitly running attrib. I don't recall why I did that, but I do know there was a good reason. Perhaps it had to do with /m not working properly on read-only files or something. I can't remember.

 


 

 

 

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Friday, 12 November 1999

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Things I see in the hall as I happen to glance up from my work:

a. Malcolm trotting proudly, head held high, with a captured pair of Barbara's unmentionables in his mouth.

b. Duncan trotting down the hall with a towel in his mouth. Behind him, fanged onto the other end of the towel, Malcolm is sliding down the hall on his back. (Fortunately we have hardwood floors.)

c. Malcolm running down the hall with his head invisible, buried in a tennis shoe. He's wearing it, kind of like a football helmet. He loses track of where he is, runs into the wall, and the shoe falls off.

d. Duncan lying on his side asleep, with Malcolm curled up asleep against his belly. I've never seen a male dog that would allow one of his own puppies to do that, let alone someone else's pup.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Brian Bilbrey [mailto:bilbrey@pacbell.net]
Sent: Thursday, November 11, 1999 4:11 PM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: Re: Sporadic Postings...

I am sorry, is pipe smoking a reliable behavioral indicator. I had no idea - I thought it was just an image thing... <g> Cool. Glad to know it.

It is, actually. You'll never see a Type-A smoking a pipe. They're all into immediate gratification. If they smoke, it's cigarettes. 

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: ROBERT RUDZKI [mailto:rasterho@pacbell.net]
Sent: Thursday, November 11, 1999 7:08 PM
To: Robert Bruce Thompson
Subject: MS decision by Jackson

I see Pournelle is getting royally pounded by lots of his 'loyal' readers for not agreeing with Judge Jackson that MSFT is 'harming' consumers... Me, I am with you and Pournelle about MSFT although I have cursed Mr. Bill and his programmers more than once for some of the 'features' found in MS products.

It is things like that and some of the polls I read in the paper that make me wonder if we have stopped teaching people how to think rationally and correctly evaluate various issues and decisions.

Chrysler gets in self-inflicted trouble 20 years ago and would have gone under so the Feds bail them out, MS does very well and grows into a huge corporation that has helped millions of people be more productive so the Feds are talking about cutting it up and fining it millions of $ and triple damages at that! What is wrong with this picture?

Every time there is a school shooting by some psycho punk kid who everyone was afraid of for years, we wring our hands and wonder why no one noticed. Yet when the teachers at Columbine did notice and talked to the parents of the young thugs, the parents said oh they're just stories and they're just being kids, it's a phase they're going through, not to worry... The local sheriff's department did not know how to enter a URL in a browser so they never found the young thug's hate filled web sites after a neighbor tipped them, they just filed the complaint away and did nothing.

We do yet another poll and find most Americans think we need more gun laws, yet when you ask people questions about the issue you are polling, nearly everyone who has opinions knows very little about the issues or laws already enacted. So why are we even asking ignorant and uninformed people what they think should be done? We have elections for that!

When MaBell ruled the wires before another judge broke it up, it was considered a 'natural' monopoly and a good thing since they could standardize phone signaling and protocols, rather than having a phone company on every block running its own wires parallel to every other company's wires.

When Mr. Bill sent that 3-page memo to Apple in 1985 suggesting they partner on hardware and software, Gates said later if they had accepted my offer MSFT would be 3 times the size it is today and Apple would have not nearly committed suicide so many times.

But Jean-Louis Gasse who is now flogging BeOS [do you know anyone who actually uses it?] was then chief technology officer for Apple and he just threw it in the trash. When Gates hadn't heard back he called on the phone and Gasse basically told him to go fly a kite, Jobs never did talk to Gates, Gasse may have not told him about the offer.

Yet when you look at Apple [we use them in school and reboot at least twice each session since the memory manager is crap and the O/S still does NOT have preemptive multitasking after 16 years!] and NextStep, BeOS, etc, no wonder people stick with MS. I don't much care for Win 95/98 and run Win NT 4 so I don't get same load of the issues that have dogged Win 95 users all these years.

Linux is getting easier to set up but still doesn't make much sense in a standalone PC for the new/average home user. Plus there is still not much general productivity software available for it, but I expect it will get better with all the big companies now supporting it.

Robert Rudzki
rasterho@pacbell.net

home.pacbell.net/rasterho

"So Microsoft is now the bad guy...?" Intel and Netscape can easily obtain the Linux kernel source free and graft on Netscape Communicator 5.0 for the GUI and Presto-Chango, a whole new O/S...!

* * * * *

This following message is typical of several similar ones I received.

-----Original Message-----
From: Kerry M. Liles [mailto:kerryl@allinson-ross.com]
Sent: Thursday, November 11, 1999 7:12 PM
To: 'webmaster@ttgnet.com'
Subject: Remembrance Day

Your recollection of your discussion with your father about the hazards of being in a bomber are so lucid I could feel my skin crawl.

Your description should be required reading for all school children who think that war can't be all that bad.

Although my mother was in the Canadian Army (as was my father for a brief time), neither experienced the second war up close or overseas. Many of my parents friends never cam back however, and I recall as a young boy seeing the far-away grief in their eyes around this time of year.

Let us hope no one ever forgets the horror of war and that never again will we need to have one to remind people of the reality of it.

Regards,

````

(Mr.) Kerry M. Liles
kerryl@allinson-ross.com

Allinson-Ross Corporation

Thanks. It's one of the few things that I become emotional about. I have a difficult time watching documentaries on the History Channel and so on that show B-17 missions. I'm always wondering if my dad was on one of the planes they're showing getting shot to pieces. I remember him telling me about the time they got a new B-17. Their old one was being retired due to combat damage and being replaced with a new model (a B-17G, I believe). They took their fresh new B-17 on its first mission. When they got back, the ground crew counted more than 2,300 holes in it from bullets, cannon rounds, and flak. The crew chief accosted the crew, saying, "Jesus Christ! Look what you bastards did to my new plane." (I guess everything depends on one's personal viewpoint.) That B-17's career comprised exactly one mission, but it got them home again, which the B-17 usually did. And my dad said that not one of the crew was even scratched.

I always watch the documentaries that show the P-51 Mustangs, though. I remember my dad saying that without the P-51 I would probably never have been born. Without the P-51 and its ability to escort the bombers all the way to the target and back home again, he said that he'd probably not have survived the war. By late in the war, the Germans had begun to field the Messerschmidt 262 jet fighter. My dad said that the B-17s were literally defenseless against it, because their gun mounts couldn't track fast enough to keep it in the sights. The ME-262 could literally fly circles around the P-51, but there were many P-51s and very few ME-262s. He said that typically six or eight P51s would gang up on one ME-262 to drive it away. The P-51s also spent a lot of time down on the deck, laying in wait for ME-262s taking off or landing, when they were vulnerable.

Never having been to war, the only way I can relate to it on a gut-level is to try to imagine what my dad went through. Other sons, I'm sure, relate to their own fathers' horror stories of fighting off Kamikaze attacks, slogging through Normandy, island hopping in the Pacific, being depth-charged in their submarines, or whatever. The point is that war is not glorious, it's hideous. And yet sometimes it's unavoidable because the alternative is still worse.

I have nothing but admiration for those who put their lives on the line to protect those of us at home. Sometimes, as with Viet Nam, the casus belli is questionable. But that doesn't change how I feel about those who fought. I was against the Viet Nam war on principle, but the actions of Jane Fonda and others like her sickened me. It's not a question of "my country, right or wrong." It's a matter of common decency. When your fathers, sons, and brothers are fighting for their lives, you don't give aid and comfort to the people who are trying to kill them. Our soldiers deserve our respect, regardless of what mess the politicians have gotten them into. And it is not the soldiers who start wars. It is the politicians who start them, and leave the soldiers to clean up the mess.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: ROBERT RUDZKI [mailto:rasterho@pacbell.net]
Sent: Friday, November 12, 1999 3:14 AM
To: Robert Bruce Thompson (E-mail)
Subject: It's not luck, it's called draft-dodging...

"My father had decided that if I were drafted, he would take me to the airport and get on a plane with me to Canada or Sweden. It never came to that. I wasn't drafted, and so I never had to fight. I was lucky."

So, Bob what if you had been drafted, would you still have gotten on that air plane to the Scandinavian padres of Swedish large-breasted liberated blondes that would love to share a sauna bath and give you a really interesting massage?

Or would you rather suffer through 12 weeks of mud and bayonet practice with The Green Machine AKA The US By God Army and then travel to exotic lands, meet interesting Asian people and kill them?

I find it illuminating that you would commemorate 11 November 1918, The End of The First Great War with a story on your dad's plan to help you flee the draft for the Eastern War to Kill Vet-Names Babies. Are not all wars fought by this great republic equally justified?

Have any of the wars made any difference? =8^-)

Well, if you'd read a bit more carefully, you'd have realized that (a) I never got drafted, so the point was moot, and (b) I didn't find out about this until about 20 years after the fact.

As far as what I would have done had I been drafted, I don't know. How could anyone know? I do know that by that time my political beliefs had solidified. I was a radical libertarian then, and did not concede that the government had the right to draft anyone. Nor did I think we had any business being in Viet Nam. So, yes, I probably would have left the country to avoid being drafted.

Now, if Viet Nam had invaded the U.S., that would have been different. They wouldn't have had to draft me. I'd have been down at the recruiting office signing up. As I would today.

We should not have been involved in either WWI or WWII. The fact that we were was due to maneuvering by politicians. WWII was Roosevelt's war. He did everything he possibly could to get us involved. He should have been impeached for treason and hanged. But on 7 December, Japan attacked the US and three days later Germany declared war. At that point no one had a lot of choice, and I'd have headed down to the recruiting office to sign up, just as my dad and millions of other men did.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Alan Donders [alan_donders at hotmail dot com]
Sent: Friday, November 12, 1999 8:43 AM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: RE: Forget MS / Break Up The Patent Office

Good points. One further question regarding patent protection - how about in the area of drugs, where companies' incentive to invest the millions necessary for R&D and then FDA approval is the ability to recapture those costs under the exclusivity offered by a patent?

Conventional wisdom is that new drugs take decades of work and hundreds of millions of dollars to develop. They don't, really. What takes all the time and money are the regulatory processes and the attorneys. My wife was watching ER last week. One of the doctors was talking to Alan Alda's character about a wonderful new product. Alan Alda observed that he'd used that as a military doctor in Viet Nam thirty years ago. Abolish the FDA and you solve the problem.

The fact is that most new drugs are no better than existing drugs that treat the same conditions. They are simply different. Many, in fact, are not as effective or safe as existing alternatives. Others are better in some respects, but worse in others. But, in order to recoup the horrendous costs involved, the drug companies push their new drugs hard. The net result is that we pay much more for new drugs that are often no better and sometimes worse than existing drugs. That's what all these new ads for ethical drugs are about, and why doctors are constantly bombarded by drug company representatives. Being human, doctors often prescribe an expensive new drug in the absence of any evidence that it's better suited than a cheap old drug. They may prescribe that new name-brand antibiotic for $75 when a $3 prescription for one of the old generic antibiotics might have done just as well. Most of the development in drugs focuses on "new" (aka high profit margins) rather than on "better."

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Alan Donders [alan_donders at hotmail dot com]
Sent: Friday, November 12, 1999 8:53 AM
To: jerryp@jerrypournelle.com
Cc: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: Purchasing a PC Without MS Windows

While a valid point was made that one can certainly buy a PC today without it having the MS Windows operating system installed, it seems to me that the availability of this option is not widespread. For instance, if I want to take advantage of a great deal on a Compaq system being offered at my local office superstore (e.g., both store and manufacturer rebates) imagine me trying to tell the salesperson that I'd like that system without Windows for $75(?) less. I can't really picture stores doubling the number of SKUs they stock to accomodate this. Perhaps there is a better solution? I also recall some Linux people jumping through hoops trying to acconmplish this by refusing to accept the MS license agreement and then battling either the vendor or MS for a refund of the cost of the OS.

Come now. Nearly any small town in America has at least one or two "screwdriver shops" where you can buy a PC without any Microsoft software. For those who prefer mail-order, there are any number of outfits that will supply a Microsoft-free PC. And those PCs use the same components as the PCs from Dell, Gateway, or Micron. Actually, they often use better components, and the service is nearly always at least as good as one of the big companies will provide.

What you're really saying is that you can't buy the brand of PC you want without also buying Microsoft software, and that's a different thing entirely. If you want a Compaq PC, you take it the way they offer it. It's a package deal. If you don't like that, don't buy the Compaq PC. There are any number of alternatives.

 


 

 

 

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Saturday, 13 November 1999

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The Register posted another article about those sweethearts at MPAA, who have gone ballistic over sites that are posting programs and/or instructions that allow people to copy DVDs. You have to admire folks like the MPAA, who use the threat of legal action to close down small sites. In this case, they're not only threatening sites that post the programs themselves, but sites that post links to other sites that make such programs and/or instructions available for download. If I were foolish enough to post a link to DVDUtils (www.dvdutils.com), for example, I'd probably get a nasty letter from the MPAA lawyers. Bastards. 

There's something seriously wrong with our legal system when such bully-boy tactics are permitted. We need some changes. I suggest the following: (a) before a complainant is permitted to file suit, he must post a bond of ten times the amount of the damages he is demanding, (b) if that lawsuit is deemed frivolous by at least one jury member, the posted bond is awarded to the innocent party that was the target of the lawsuit, and (c) every lawyer in the firm that files a frivolous lawsuit shall be disbarred on the spot and then executed immediately.

Some might take issue with the third point, but the unarguable fact is that there are too many lawyers. Worse still, there are too many stupid, greedy lawyers. Point (c) would have the double benefit of cutting down on the number of lawyers overall and in particular of cutting down on stupid, greedy lawyers. We have to do something to make it more dangerous to file a law suit. Come to that, we have to do something to make it more dangerous to be a lawyer. Perhaps we could add an open season on lawyers similar to my proposed open season on politicians. I mean, it's legal to exterminate rats, and everyone I know prefers rats to both lawyers and politicians.

Ordinarily, I wouldn't care much about DVD copying. I don't watch DVDs. But under US Copyright law, it's my right to make backup copies of DVDs, and MPAA is trying to prevent me from exercising that right. So I went over to www.dvdutils.com (that place that I don't dare post a link to) and downloaded the DVD rippers they have posted. I'd suggest that everyone reading this do the same. What scares the MPAA is that they're stuck with what they have. There are tens of millions of DVD players and discs out there, so changing methods would render them obsolete overnight. The MPAA would dearly love to stuff this genie back into the bottle. Let's make sure they can't.

I'm using both FrontPage 98 and FrontPage 2000 now, and the reason I'm doing that is interesting. I prefer using the FP2K editor (with its real-time spell checking and so on), but there are times when it bogs down so much as to be unusable. When that happens, I switch to using the FP98 editor, which has no such problems. The bogging in FP2K is not related to page size. As best I can determine, it's related to how many incidences of IE5 I have open. Right now, for example, I have 11 incidences of IE5 running, and FP2K's editor is unusable. Scrolling down one screen takes literally 30 seconds. If I close all incidences of IE5, the FP2K editor sometimes returns to normal, but not always. Sometimes I have to restart the computer to clear the molasses out. I'm not sure what causes this to happen, but I suspect it demonstrates some unforeseen drawbacks to Microsoft's tight integration of IE5 with their other products.

Barbara will soon be a famous hand-model. While she was gone, I was attempting to shoot some photos for the books. I found that it was difficult for me to be both photographer and model, so I dragooned Barbara into being the model. Here's the first fruit of that, with Barbara completing the installation of a power supply into an Antec KS-288 case. (Well, actually, the power supply came installed, but we had to illustrate installing it anyway).

bft-powersupply.jpg (40893 bytes)

And if you've ever wondered about just how useful those foam filters are in keeping a PC clean, here's a picture of the front filter on kiwi, which has been running with the cover off for about two weeks. This in my office, which is a notoriously tidy, clean, and dust-free environment, as my regular readers know.

kiwi-ppc-filter.jpg (54300 bytes)

Well, FrontPage has screwed me again, resetting all the date/timestamps on my HTML files to today's date. At first I thought it had done it just now because I was foolish enough to open my web with FP98. But that's not the case, because all the files have more or less the same date/timestamp, and it's from before I fired up FP98. I don't know what causes that to happen. I know it happens routinely when daylight saving time changes, but it happens at least once a month for no apparent reason. That used to really aggravate me because I have to republish my entire web site every time it happens. But now, I just grin and bear it.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Jon Barrett [mailto:jonzann@altavista.net]
Sent: Friday, November 12, 1999 12:58 PM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: Fw: Light bulb

Thought you might enjoy this. You might want to enlist Malcolm & Duncan in network maintenance.

Jon

HOW MANY DOGS DOES IT TAKE TO CHANGE A LIGHT BULB?

Golden Retriever: The sun is shining. The day is young. We've got our whole lives ahead of us. And you're inside worrying about a stupid, burned-out light bulb?

Border Collie: Just one. Not only that, but I'll replace any wiring that's not up to code.

Dachshund: I can't reach the lamp!

Toy Poodle: I'll just talk sweet to the Border collie and he'll do it. By the time he finishes rewiring the house, my nails will be dry.

Rottweiler: Go ahead! Make me!

Shi-tzu: Puh-leeze, dah-ling. What are servants for?

Lab: Oh, me, me!!! Pleeeeeeze let me change the light bulb! Can I? Can I? Huh? Huh? Can I?

Malamute: Let the Border collie do it. You can feed me while he's busy.

Doberman Pinscher: While it's dark, I'm going to sleep on the couch.

Hound Dog: ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

Chihuahua: Yo quiero Taco Bulb.

Pointer: I see it, there it is, right there...

Greyhound: It isn't moving. Who cares?

Australian Shepherd: Put all the light bulbs in a little circle...

Old English Sheep Dog: Light bulb? Light bulb? That thing I just ate was a light bulb?

Thanks.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Jimi Jones [mailto:jjones@antec-inc.com]
Sent: Friday, November 12, 1999 4:40 PM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: CD-R/W Disk

Hello Robert;

My question to you is this, "are the CD-R/W disc ISO 9660 compatible ?, and if not is there anyway to create ISO 9660 disk from CD-R/W's ?

I'm not entirely sure that I understand the question. The ISO-9660 filesystem is a logical formatting standard, which has nothing to do with the underlying media. You can create an ISO-9660 compliant disc by traditional pressing, or by burning to a CD-R disc or a CD-RW disc. There are three levels of ISO-9660 compliance. Level 1 (the least common denominator level) enforces severe restrictions on file names, as well as mandating that all files appear sequentially on the disc (which rules out packet-writing, for example). Level 2 eliminates the filename restrictions, but maintains the requirement for files to be sequential. Level 3 eliminates all restrictions. I suspect that most CD premastering packages can produce ISO-9660 discs. I know that Adaptec Easy CD Creator provides that option, although I have never used it.

Incidentally, I'm building a project PC around one of your KS-288 cases today. It's a very nice case, indeed. Much nicer than the similarly priced cases I've seen from Enlight, InWin, and similar companies.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: ROBERT RUDZKI [mailto:rasterho@pacbell.net]
Sent: Friday, November 12, 1999 11:33 PM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: Sorry for the confusion I was tired...

a) I was tired and not tracking too well and b) you are right and my spell checker is a total moron!

Marcia asked why my posts appear different at times so I decided to spell-check everything I send out but I see now I will have to build my personal 'add' dictionary...

In looking back you have to go all the way to 1814 to see the last war we fought on US soil to repel a foreign invader all the rest have been foreign military excursions for one slim excuse or another including as you say WW1 and WW2. At least the banana wars made some sense in the '20's we were protecting American fruit company interests from would-be Commies...

Even Saddam Hussein invading Saudi Arabia in 1991, so what? He can't drink the oil, he would have to sell it on the international markets, and Kuwait wasn't exactly a hotbed of democracy which the US was 'restoring' according to some articles I read in the press back then.

Well, one might reasonably argue that Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor was an attack on U.S. territory. Also, I believe that Japan did invade (or attempt to invade) the Aleutians, which were a U.S. possession at the time. Those aside, some might argue that Mexico invaded the US in the person of Pancho Villa, who at one point became more or less the head of state, kind of. But I agree that in essence the U.S. has not been invaded in many a year, and should not be taking part in those wars, which were none of our business.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: ROBERT RUDZKI [mailto:rasterho@pacbell.net]
Sent: Saturday, November 13, 1999 2:11 AM
To: Robert Bruce Thompson (E-mail)
Subject: Stabilant 22

Have you ever used 'Stabilant 22' contact enhance and does it really fix all sorts of finger problems and cable misconfigurations?

I went to the site [ http://www.stabilant.com/index.html ] and could not find what the stuff really is made of...

The stuff sells for $6800 per liter if I did the math right:

1000/15 = 66.666 x $102 = $6800

It sounds a little too good to be true, IMO.

Pournelle loves it, that should tell you something...

Robert Rudzki
rasterho@pacbell.net
home.pacbell.net/rasterho

"So Microsoft is now the bad guy...?" Intel and Netscape can easily obtain the Linux kernel source free and graft on Netscape Communicator 5.0 for the GUI and Presto-Chango, a whole new O/S...!

Although I know that Pournelle recommends Stabilant highly, I've never used it, or indeed ever seen the necessity for it. I'd be willing to bet that Stabilant's claims are based on valid scientific reasoning, but I have no idea what that might be. If someone forced me to guess, I'd speculate that it's a conductive anti-oxidant, but who knows?

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Alan Donders [mailto:alan_donders@hotmail.com]
Sent: Saturday, November 13, 1999 7:52 AM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: RE: Purchasing a PC Without MS Windows

But did Compaq "decide" in their best wisdom that "everyone" wanted Windows on their PC or did MS "persuade" them? Wasn't it in the MS OEM contracts that the vendors paid for a Windows license for every PC shipped whether or not Windows actually was installed on that machine?

Well, I'd say the question is immaterial. None of us are parties to any contracts that Compaq and Microsoft chose to make. If Compaq chooses to agree to pay for and ship a Windows license with every PC in exchange for getting a better price on Windows, I'd say that's their business, not ours. 

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: kpl@boromir.vpop.net [mailto:kpl@boromir.vpop.net]On Behalf Of Kevin P. Lawton
Sent: Saturday, November 13, 1999 9:36 AM
To: webmaster@ttgnet.com
Subject: VMWare related project

Robert,

I saw some discussion of VMWare on your web page. Just a tip to let you know about an open source project to create such as program. http://www.FreeMWare.org/

Thanks.

 


 

 

 

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Sunday, 14 November 1999

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Important Notice

pair Networks is relocating its data center next week. The move is currently scheduled for Wednesday, 17 November. They hope to keep down time to eight hours or less. That means that this site (along with www.jerrypournelle.com, www.wakeolda.com, www.robichaux.net, www.cbcr.org, and other sites hosted by pair will be unavailable during the move. Of course, sometimes things do not go as planned, so the down time may exceed eight hours.

All mail sent to ttgnet.com addresses will be queued for delivery after service resumes, so none should be lost. If you get a bounce message or don't receive a prompt reply, assume the data center move is the reason. If you urgently need to send email to me while pair is down, address it to thompsrb@bellsouth.net. That's actually the mailbox that Barbara POPs from, so please make clear at the top of the message that the mail is intended for me.


Total exhaustion reared its ugly head today. My normal routine is to go to bed around 11:00 p.m., where I read for an hour or two. I normally get up at 7:00 or 7:30, after six to seven hours of sleep. With the puppy waking us at dawn every day for the last week or so, I've been running on about five hours sleep a night, and I can't manage on that. This is kind of like having a new baby in the house. 

There's a reason why nature restricts child-bearing to the young. Sleep deprivation is bad enough when you're 25. When you're 45, it's really no joke. One night, we craftily decided to move a night light into our bedroom, hoping that Malcolm wouldn't notice dawn if there was some light all night. That worked amazingly well. He didn't notice dawn. He just stayed up all night instead.

So today, I got up at the now-usual 6:15 a.m., read the paper, and went to work. After doing a couple of loads of laundry, I was getting ready to sit down and write an update for this page. I was so beat, though, that I decided to take a nap. After sleeping for a couple of hours, I feel better but still not good. I keep telling myself that this early rising ends sooner or later. I can tough it out for the next few weeks. I think.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: James T. Crider [mailto:jim@docjim.com]
Sent: Saturday, November 13, 1999 2:16 PM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: Prescription Drugs

Enjoyed your response in yesterday's Daynotes Journal about prescription drugs and pharmaceutical companies. While there are theoretical advantages to some new drugs for conditions like diabetes most seem to be released simply so the different companies can say we have a drug to treat that condition too. Take for instance ACE Inhibitors which are used to treat high blood pressure and congestive heart failure. When I started in practice 13 years ago there were two, now there are at least ten. They all work alike, most are once a day so why do we need that many?

When a pharmaceutical company representative comes into my office to discuss a new drug my first question is always how much does it cost. According to them, pricing is set by MBA's in their main office who must recover all their research and development costs and make a profit for their stockholders. I have often asked them if their company has ever thought about lowering the price for a drug and depending on increased volume to dominate the market for that particular drug line and recoup their costs that way. One drug company did this with a liquid antibiotic for children in the late 1980's and it worked. Today's conventional wisdom I guess is that will not work.

Another problem is direct to consumer advertising by the pharmaceutical companies. You've seen and heard the ads if you watch any television or read a magazine. Now we have patients coming in asking for a particular drug which is usually an expensive one or the newest one in that class. I spend a lot of time explaining to people why they don't need that particular drug, it will not work any better than this less expensive one.

You mentioned cheap generic antibiotic alternatives, unfortunately those usually have to be taken more times a day then the expensive new antibiotic and once someone hears from their neighbor about the antibiotic they only have to take once a day for five days guess which one they want. Their insurance pays for it so they think what's the difference. I have lost patients because I have refused to use the newer, more convenient, more expensive antibiotic in place of the just as effective generic antibiotic. This has also led to increased resistance to antibiotics among infectious organisms. That's another long dissertation which I won't get into now.

Jim Crider
Jim@docjim.com
http://www.docjim.com

Certainly I did not mean to imply that all new drugs are worthless. Some are in fact useful, and a few are revolutionary. But the patent system means that pharmaceutical companies put a lot of effort into producing "new" drugs that are just enough different from existing drugs patented by competitors to avoid patent suits, while still allowing the pharmaceutical company to produce a drug with similar action. As you say, once you have two acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, how many more do you need? One or two more? Perhaps, if they truly have therapeutic advantages, such as differing side effects or drug interactions. But ten seems excessive.

As far as the ads for ethical drugs in mass-market media, have you considered telling your patients something like, "It's overpriced garbage. If it were really better, they wouldn't have to advertise it."? Or "Yeah, they run all those ads so that patients will ask for the stuff. They know doctors are on to their scheme and won't recommend it ourselves, so they had to do something to sell some of it."

I sympathize with your troubles with patients who take medical advice from their neighbors. Although I haven't seen a doctor in twenty-five years, I do take my mother frequently. She has to pay for her own medications, so I'm not shy about asking whether there is a less expensive alternative to whatever the doctor prescribes. Also, if he prescribes a seven day course of antibiotics for her, I always ask if he'll make it ten. If he prescribes ten, I'll ask him to make it fourteen. 

Drug resistant bacteria terrify me. I've said before in these pages that in a hundred years historians may look back fondly on the antibiotic era, that 50 year period in human history when we actually had antibiotics that worked. Those of us who grew up with effective antibiotics widely available cannot conceive of what things were like before antibiotics. I just hope that our grandchildren won't curse us for misusing antibiotics so badly that the world returns to the days when bacterial diseases routinely killed millions. I understand that bacteria resistant to vancomycin are becoming common. What's left? We may end up having to revert to using routinely stuff like chloramphenicol, which may still be effective against some resistant bacteria but has nasty side effects like irreversible aplastic anemia. What a conundrum. "Here's a drug that may save your life, but it may also kill you." Geez.

I don't blame doctors for this mess. Not really. Although it would be nice if doctors would tell patients with minor infections to tough it out. Even my own mother, to whom I've explained the issues repeatedly, tries to stop taking her antibiotics as soon as she starts feeling better. I have to stand over her with the pill and a glass of water to make sure she takes them all.


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