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Daynotes Journal

Week of 29 November 1999

Sunday, 05 December 1999 09:55

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, 29 November 1999

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Duncan and Malcolm continue to get along pretty well. Duncan occasionally snarls and lunges at Malcolm, but we don't blame him a bit. In fact, we encourage him to do it. Malcolm is still in his fang-it-if-it-moves stage, and Duncan is getting tired of having his face, ears, feet, tail, and other appendages bitten. Most of the time, though, they co-exist peacefully. When Duncan was Malcolm's age, he wanted nothing more than to snuggle up to Kerry to take a nap. Kerry would never let him do that, and we expected that Duncan would feel the same about Malcolm. He doesn't, though. He allows Malcolm to cuddle at nap time. I shot the photo below just as they both woke up from a long nap.

duncan-malcolm-waking-up.jpg (53558 bytes)

What's really surprising is that he lets Malcolm snuggle up against his rear end. If I were Duncan, I'd be a little more concerned about my dangly bits, especially since Malcolm often celebrates the end of a nap by fanging whatever happens to be closest to him when he wakes up.

Now I have to get kiwi in place and running as my main workstation. I've already put the cover back on and moved it to its new home. Now I need to connect cables and start loading software. I have a manual KVM switchbox that I'll use to share the monitor between kiwi and kerby. I won't be able to use it to share a keyboard and mouse, though. The switch box has DB9 serial connectors for the mouse and AT keyboard connectors. Both machines use PS/2 keyboards and mice. I don't have the necessary adapter cables, and I don't feel like making them. Actually, I prefer to have separate keyboards and mice anyway.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Tom Syroid [mailto:tom@syroidmanor.com]
Sent: Friday, November 26, 1999 10:23 AM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: RE: Diskeeper 5

You're quite right -- it doesn't convert anything, per se. What is does is change a descriptor in the MBR, making any and all NTFS volumes on your hard disk *appear* as NTFS5. Any NTFS4 partitions are still structured as such, but any utility that needs to access the hard disk (like DK or DriveImage or PartitionMagic) looks at the MBR and *sees* that your NTFS4 volume is now an NTFS5 volume. So it refuses to work.

This is another one of MS's "undocumented features" that is going to throw a huge f#@$ into unwary system administrators and end users. The only thing I can figure is that MS thought this would be a sneaky way to prod NT4 users into upgrading to NT5. I think it is unconscionable.

I have no idea how things would work if you installed NT5 first, then NT4. I suspect that would bring it's own can of worms to the table. I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that NT5 would no longer boot in such a scenario.

I've come to rely on MS products for what I need to do every day, but the more I think about it, the more I have to admit that it is reliance and sloth -- not respect for the products themselves. I really, really hate the way MS are doing business of late. And I intend to do my part in protesting this RSN.

If you think you're having a hard time with Hardware in a Nutshell, just wait til you start writing your Win2K book. You ain't seen nothing yet...

I figured it had to be something like that. Obviously, since Windows NT 4 Workstation can still boot from and access the volume. I haven't tried installing NT5 first, or if I have I don't remember what happened. Come to think of it, I probably did try that, since I did probably a dozen installs of each of three operating systems, trying to get Windows 98, Windows NT4 Workstation and Windows 2000 Professional to triple-boot. I finally gave up on Windows 98.

If you think writing any software book is tough, try a hardware book. I usually do first draft chapters on software books at the rate of one a week. Hardware has turned into more like one a month. There's just no comparison. I'm greatly looking forward to getting these hardware books done and starting in on Windows 2000.

 


 

 

 

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Tuesday, 30 November 1999

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About a fifth to a quarter of my regular readers have bookmarked my Daynotes home page, and read the current page by clicking on this week's link from the Daynotes Home page. Those readers won't notice any change this morning. The remaining 75% to 80% of my readers have bookmarked thisweek.html, and will have noticed that that page is now a redirector page that automatically displays this named weekly page.

It was because of reader requests that I originally started using thisweek.html to provide a bookmarkable page. That method has the advantage of providing one-click access to the current week's page. It does have several drawbacks, though. Probably the biggest of those is that it makes it difficult to link to things I publish on my daily notes page, because this page would be named thisweek.html only until the beginning of next week. There are several other drawbacks, including the fact that search engines index the contents of thisweek.html and present them to searchers. A week or six months from now, someone who locates information in a search engine clicks on the link to thisweek.html and finds that the current thisweek.html page has nothing whatsoever to do with the page they thought they were retrieving. 

I've tried to get around these problems by maintaining duplicate pages. For example, this page would formerly have been stored on my server as both thisweek.html and 1129RTDN.html. In theory, that provides a static page name that allows someone to link to content on this page without having the link become useless at the end of the week. In practice, no one did that, so it simply meant that I was spending more time keeping two pages synchronized.

Brian Bilbrey changed his site yesterday, adding a redirector page that automatically redirects requests to his current weekly notes page to the uniquely named version of that page. That seemed like a good idea to me, so I stole his idea. Henceforth, I will update only the uniquely named weekly page (1129RTDN.html in this case). The page thisweek.html is now a redirector, which I will change only once a week so that it will point to the current weekly page.

I've made only two significant changes to Brian's redirector page. First, I increased the timer from 0 seconds to 2 seconds. That avoids the "Hotel California" problem whereby someone who hits the redirector arrives at this page, but cannot use the Back button to get past the redirector page when attempting to "back out". Second, I added the HTML necessary to ensure that thisweek.html is not cached. Because thisweek.html points to a uniquely-named weekly page, users would otherwise have to remember to refresh that page each week. Eliminating caching on that page means that it's reloaded each time it's retrieved. That shouldn't be a problem, because the page is less than 1 KB, so reloading it takes only a small fraction of a second even on a slow link.

Yesterday I was overrun by a horde of lemmings. I moved kiwi to its new location, shutdown kerby, and connected the KVM switch box to the monitor and both machines. When I powered them up, nothing happened. After verifying connections and scratching my head for several minutes, I finally realized that I had the switchbox connected to the wrong video connector on the Matrox Millennium G400 card in kiwi. That card has the dual-head feature, which allows you to connect two monitors, but that feature is supported only under Windows 98. That still didn't explain why I wasn't getting any video out of kerby, though.

I powered everything down and connected the cables properly. This time, everything came up normally. I was able to switch between the video on both systems with no problem. Well, one problem. The monitor looked terrible. There was a background shimmering kind of like waves washing across beach sand. My first thought was that I'd gotten one or more of the video cables too close to a power brick or something, so I spent some more time moving cables around and so on. It didn't help. Finally, I unplugged everything and reconnected the monitor cable directly to kerby. The monitor was still shimmering

I concluded that either my main monitor had coincidentally developed a problem or that this manual switchbox had damaged it. Pournelle has warned me repeatedly about using cheap manual switchboxes rather than the electronic KVM switches that he uses, but this is the first thing that makes me suspect that he may indeed be right about the hazards of manual switchboxes. I remember years ago that HP voided the warranty on your LaserJet if you connected it to a manual switchbox, so there may be something to that warning.

At any rate, I decided that it was time for a new monitor. Fortunately, I didn't need to do much research, having just done so while I was working on the video chapter. There are four monitor manufacturers in the first rank--Hitachi, Mitsubishi, NEC, and Sony. All of the others, including some big names like Nokia, are a step behind the Big Four. One of the biggest names of all, Viewsonic, apparently doesn't actually manufacture monitors. They OEM them from various Pacific Rim sources, which means that we could each buy the same model of Viewsonic and find that the two monitors had actually been made by different manufacturers. 

How do I know all this? By talking to tech people from the various monitor manufacturers. I ask each of them, "Other than your own company, who makes the best monitors?" Without exception, the Big Four are mentioned as the best manufacturers. When I ask about Nokia, Nanao/Eizo, and other respected makers, the responses are usually similar, "Yes, they make a good monitor, but not quite as good as those from Hitachi, Mitsubishi, NEC, or Sony." When I ask about other popular monitor makers like Samsung or Viewsonic/Optiquest, the responses are similarly similar, "They make decent consumer-grade monitors, but they're not as good as the Japanese Big Four." Also, I'm told that the second- and third-tier brands have greater variability than the Big Four. If you compare two monitors with sequential serial numbers, one may be superb and the other mediocre. That's less a problem with the Big Four.

So I knew I wanted a monitor from one of the Big Four. Of those, the one I've been most impressed with is Hitachi. Their models generally have the same or slightly better specs and the same or slightly better price than directly competing models from Mitsubishi, NEC, and Sony. I dithered about 17" versus 19". Barbara, as usual, put her finger on it: "You spend all day working in front of that monitor. Buy the 19" one." So I decided to buy a 19" Hitachi.

The last time I looked at the Hitachi web site, they had three 19" models, the 751, 752, and 753. The low-end 751 does everything I need to do, namely 1280X1024 resolution at 85 Hz. The more expensive 752 and 753 would be useful primarily for graphics artists and others who want to run 1600X1200 at high refresh rates. So I'd about decided on the 751 when I visited the Hitachi home page again. I noticed that they have a new model, the 761. It appears to have specs almost identical to those of the 751, but with one difference. The 761 is a short-neck monitor.

So I called my contact at Hitachi and told her I wanted to buy a 19" Hitachi, either the 751 or 761. I said, "it appears that the 751 and 761 have nearly identical specs and that the only difference is that the 751 is long-neck and the 761 short-neck. Is that true." She responded, "Well, not exactly." After saying that Hitachi made the absolute best short-neck tubes and that the only other manufacturer of short-neck tubes is Panasonic, which is used by all other monitor manufacturers, and is inferior to the Hitachi short-neck (all of which I believe to be true), she told me that the best short-neck tubes can't compare with even a mid-range long-neck tube as far as display quality. That makes sense, because the deflection angle is 100 degrees for a short-neck versus 90 for a long-neck. When you alter the geometry of a monitor to shorten it, you must make compromises to achieve the tighter bending of the electron beam that the short neck requires. That's why I love talking to techs. They tell the truth.

So I ordered a Hitachi SuperScan 751. I got it for the dealer-demo/press price, a little over $400, which is comparable to what I'd have paid for it if I'd bought it from a web site, but I prefer buying directly from Hitachi.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Bill Beierwaltes
Sent: Monday, November 29, 1999 11:46 AM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: Fw: Thanks!

Robert,

I thought you'd like this message I received today concerning the shrouded connector:

"Yes. It is already in the plan. This is also needed to get the Microsoft "Designed for Windows" logo."

Bill

Thanks. I'm very glad to hear that. In fact, I reviewed your OnStream ADR 50 SCSI tape drive rather savagely. The problem wasn't the drive itself. The problem was that it used bare pins rather than a shrouded SCSI connector. Those bare pins are connected to a circuit board, which was notched to fit the key on the SCSI cable supplied with the drive. When I aligned the key with the notch and pressed firmly to seat the cable, it mashed the pins flat. After removing the cable and spending the better part of an hour using my needle-nose pliers to straighten the pins, I discovered that the notch in the circuit board had been cut incorrectly. It was off by more than a full pin spacing from where it should have been. Now, of course, it's possible to file down the key on the SCSI cable and connect the cable carefully while keeping all the pins lined up, but I'm sure that's not something that you'd expect an average buyer of your drive to do. By adding a shrouded connector, you remove my last objection to OnStream drives. I will recommend them on that basis. 

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Bill Beierwaltes
Sent: Monday, November 29, 1999 5:57 PM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: Re: Thanks!

Robert,

Thanks for taking the time to explain your difficult installation situation. I've sent it to management in Eindhoven and Colorado so we can get it right on the next board turn.

Bill

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Frank A. Love [mailto:falove@home.com]
Sent: Tuesday, November 30, 1999 5:26 AM
To: Robert Bruce Thompson
Subject: Interesting Article in The Register

Hi Bob.

Loved your picture of the two dogs sleeping together.

I just read the following article on The Register at http://www.theregister.co.uk/991129-000018.html and wanted to get your reaction to it. Briefly, the article details recent Intel motherboard incompatibilities with various Pentium III processors ( the Seattle series) and implies at the end that there are pinout differences in the new Coppermine socket 370 processors which will result in making it damn near impossible for a hobbyist to buy a motherboard and know which Intel processors will work in it!

I have three questions: 1) Is there any truth to this? 2) If true, what do you think Intel's chances are against AMD if they start pulling bushwa like this on the computer world? and 3) If true, why haven't I seen this info elsewhere? (This has to be major news!!)

Of course, in this day of plummeting processor and computer prices maybe Intel figures there won't be any people left who like to assemble their own systems. (Presumably this would also affect a lot of small assembly shops as well, in effect, forcing them to buy a motherboard/processor package to guarantee compatibility.)

I don't know about you, but the thought of any company having that much power over the PC hardware platform scares me a lot worse than any OS monopoly...... I sure hope our esteemed Justice Department is taking a hard look at Intel's business practices. Intel sure claimed 90% of the chipset and at least 70% of the motherboard market in a hurry! A few years ago, there were at least a half-dozen chip set makers. I can only only think of two besides Intel now.

Cheers!

Frank Love

Well, Intel has certainly become dominant in motherboards and chipsets, but it wasn't from any lack of competition. Intel simply makes superb products, despite well-publicized aberrations like their problems with the 820 chipset and RDRAM. I don't think we need worry about monopoly issues, with ALi, SiS, and VIA competing strongly in the chipset market and with any number of motherboard manufacturers cranking out new products every week.

As far as your questions, there's enough truth in the accusations to make a good story, but that's about it. There's no grand conspiracy by Intel or anyone else to render products incompatible or obsolete. What we're seeing is simply the march of technology. The problem of newer processors being incompatible with earlier motherboards has several possible causes.

First, of course, is physical incompatibility. A socketed processor won't fit a slot and vice versa. But within those constraints, everything is compatible. Any Socket 370 processor, for example, will physically fit any Socket 370 motherboard. There are no arbitrary differences in pinouts between different Socket 370 processors to render one or another unusable with a given motherboard. For example, see the Intel CA810E motherboard, which supports 66 MHz FSB Celeron CPUs, 100 MHz Pentium III CPUs, and 133 MHz Pentium III CPUs. When the 100 MHz FSB Celeron CPUs ship, it will support them as well.

Then there's power. Nearly any modern motherboard can detect and switch between the 2.8 V required by the early Klamath-core Pentium II CPUs and the later 2.0 V Deschutes-core Pentium II CPUs. Some motherboards also support using new low-voltage CPUs, but require a BIOS update to do so. The controlling factors are which VRM (voltage regulator module) the motherboard uses and how much current the CPU requires. Some early Intel Seattle SE440BX boards, for example, were produced with VRMs that could only supply adequate current for processors up to and including the Pentium II/400. Using a Pentium II/450 or any Pentium III in those motherboards simply overdrives the VRM and burns it out. Later revisions of the Seattle-1 supported up to the Pentium II/450 or Pentium III/450, but not the Pentium III/500 and higher.

The motherboard market is extremely competitive, so criticizing Intel or any other manufacturer for not "over-engineering" their motherboards by using higher-rated VRMs than needed to support currently available processors is really not fair. If anything, Intel (along with EPoX) tends to over-engineer their boards more than most manufacturers. Just look at the size, number, and brand names of the capacitors on Intel or EPoX boards versus those on lesser motherboards.

The final issue, of course, is BIOS support. Once again, Intel is among the best in the industry at supplying regular BIOS updates for their boards.

So, no, I don't think that there's any grand conspiracy. If anything, these incompatibilities between newer processors and older motherboards are actually a Good Thing. They prove that Intel and other manufacturers are not making the mistake of making backward compatibility a prime issue. That's what stuck us with legacy products like DOS for a decade longer than we should have been. The simple fact is that probably less than 0.1% of systems are ever upgraded by swapping in a faster processor. Designing 100% of motherboards to accommodate that tiny minority simply makes no sense.

 


 

 

 

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Wednesday, 1 December 1999

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Pournelle posted a photo yesterday of the 37 pills he takes each morning, so I figured I could do no less. Here are my two daily pills, which I usually take with dinner. The one on the left is a Centrum From-A-to-Zinc vitamin tablet. The one on the right is a Bayer 325 mg aspirin tablet. The vitamin tablet helps make up for my hideous eating habits. The aspirin will in theory help prevent a heart attack. 

pills.jpg (39212 bytes)

Actually, I usually take a 500 mg enteric-coated aspirin, but all we have at the moment is regular old aspirin tablets. I'm sure that Dr. Jim will question the wisdom of arbitrarily taking aspirin routinely, but I regard routine low-dose aspirin therapy as relatively benign, and 3.0 to 4.7 mg/kg daily is a very small dose. The only real danger is that aspirin irritates the gastric lining, but I always take it with food. 

Winter may finally be arriving in Winston-Salem. Temperatures last night dropped to about 23F (-5C). As I write this at about 10:00 a.m., our indoor/outdoor thermometer says they've climbed to about 34F (1C). I'm now keeping a parka near the front door for puppy emergencies. I told Barbara last night that I think my Northern-boy immunity to cold has finally worn off. Apparently, there are actual physiological differences between people who live in cold climates and those who live in warmer ones. Kind of a natural anti-freeze that provides some immunity to cold. But if someone accustomed to cold weather moves to a warmer area, that immunity gradually degrades. I remember that when I lived up North 20 years ago, I was reasonably comfortable being outside for a few minutes in a short-sleeve shirt when the temperature was -20F (-29C). Nowadays, if I go outside in short sleeves when the temperature is +20F (-7C) I start shivering after a few minutes.

FedEx just showed up with both versions of VMware. I don't have a Linux box available to install it on yet, but I have any number of Windows NT/2000 boxes, so I plan to install VMware for Windows NT/2000 and see what it does. Brian "Brain" Bilbrey posted a detailed narrative, including screen shots, of his experiences installing VMware for Linux, so it's probably just as well that I concentrate on the NT version for now.

Well, I couldn't wait, of course. I've just spent the last couple of hours installing and playing with VMware for Windows NT/2000. Installing VMware and configuring a virtual machine for Windows 2000 Professional took about five minutes. Installing W2KP on the virtual machine and playing with it took the rest of that time.

VMWARE01.png (24402 bytes)

It's interesting to watch the virtual computer boot in a window. This is on kerby, which has 128 MB installed. Apparently, VMware assigns half the available physical memory to the virtual machine. Either that, or it assigns a fixed 64 MB to a W2KP virtual machine.

VMWARE04.png (5168 bytes)

Windows 2000 Professional Setup commences. I can see where VMware will be very useful for taking screenshots for my Windows 2000 books. It's always been a problem to capture screens of Setup, because the system isn't up on its knees far enough to permit running a normal screen capture program.

VMWARE08.png (10056 bytes)

VMware warned me when I started it that I hadn't yet installed the Tools for W2KP, so I was a bit concerned what would happen when Setup changed from text-mode to graphics-mode. Everything worked fine, albeit a bit slowly. VMware recommends at least a Pentium II/266 and 128 MB of RAM. Kerby is a PII/300 with 128 MB, so it's essentially the minimum recommended configuration. Also, VMware recommends installing their Tools, which are available in different versions for the different operating systems you can install on a virtual machine. I've not yet downloaded or installed those Tools, which, according to VMware, provide greater than VGA video and greatly improved performance.

VMWARE19.png (9274 bytes)

When Setup completed, the virtual machine rebooted and the Windows 2000 Logon prompt appeared.

VMWARE20.png (9048 bytes)

I waited anxiously to see how virtual networking would cope. As it turned out, I had no problem authenticating against the NT4 Primary Domain Controller.

VMWARE22.png (8462 bytes)

And the Windows 2000 Professional desktop appeared normally within the VMware window.

VMWARE24.png (12143 bytes)

I know that many readers are concerned about gaming performance, so I always play a game of FreeCell to test. It worked fine. I'm about to win (does anyone ever lose?).

First impressions: VMware is a dynamite product. I can see numerous uses for it. Everything from grabbing difficult screen shots during Setup to creating virtual "sand boxes" for testing applications and operating systems to training system administrators and testing network security. You can download a thirty-day eval version of either the Linux or NT/Windows 2000 versions (or both) here. The single-user electronically-distributed version sells for $299 on either platform ($10 more for a packaged version, which also includes a CD containing a copy of SuSE Linux pre-installed in a Virtual Machine), and is also available for $99/$109 to students and hobbyists (like all of us). 

I've about given up on multiple-booting different operating systems on one machine. It simply causes too many problems, not least of which is that it sometimes causes Windows Networking to have a virtual mental breakdown. With VMware, you can install numerous operating systems on one physical computer, including MS-DOS 6+, Windows 3.1, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows NT 4 Server and/or Workstation, Windows 2000 Professional and/or Server; FreeBSD, and various Linices, including Red Hat 5.0 or higher, SuSE 5.3 and higher, and Caldera OpenLinux 1.2 and higher. They're even experimenting with NetWare.

If you have any need at all to run multiple operating systems, I strongly suggest that you download the eval version and give it a try. I suspect you'll end up buying it.

As usual, mail is backing up. I'm about out of time and energy, so it's short-shrift time.

-----Original Message-----
From: Gary M. Berg [mailto:Gary_Berg@attglobal.net]
Sent: Tuesday, November 30, 1999 11:40 AM
To: Robert Bruce Thompson
Subject: Current week bookmark

>> About a fifth to a quarter of my regular readers have bookmarked my Daynotes home page, and read the current page by clicking on this week's link from the Daynotes Home page. Those readers won't notice any change this morning. <<

Not so! Your Daynotes Home Page links to thisweek.html, not to the proper week. I know, I saw it do it <g>. At least, I assume you are talking about the page which I get when I go directly to http://www.ttgnet.com/ .

No, actually. I was referring to the Daynotes home page (listed in the left column) rather than the main index page for the site.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Sjon Svenson [mailto:sjon@svenson.com]
Sent: Tuesday, November 30, 1999 5:06 PM
To: Robert Thompson
Subject: displays

>That's why I love talking to techs. They tell the truth. 

You mean they don't, knowingly, lie. If any one says about a monitor that it is the best they don't tell the truth. If they say it is the best they know then they tell the truth.

At work we are using Eizo 17inch displays, several hundreds already purchased over several years. They are really good. Better than the 21inch Sony tubes in the R&D department.

At home I have various makes and models of display. The best is an Optiquest but that may just be because it is the most recent. The only Hitach I ever used was real crap, but than that was way back in 1983 so not representative at all. Of course none can come close to the LG Studioworks 15inch LCD I use as my main screen :-). If you ever look into LCD screens I think you should look into the LG range. They are miles better than the NEC and HP LCD screens I have seen. And it is miles shorter than a 'short neck' tube. More than good enough, you don't even get it out of my cold death fingers.

I wasn't knocking Eizo monitors, really. I'm sure they make a very good product. In fact, when I started asking questions, I assumed that Nokia and Nanao/Eizo would fall in the top group. But no one mentioned them when I queried them as to the best competing models. There is, of course, greater variability in monitors from sample to sample than with any other computer component. Shipping also plays a role. A monitor that leaves the factory as a superb specimen may be only mediocre by the time the shipping company drops it at your front door.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Brian Dahl [mailto:briand@cprog.com]
Sent: Tuesday, November 30, 1999 5:05 PM
To: webmaster@ttgnet.com
Subject: bad link on your archives page

I was unable to get to http://www.ttgnet.com/daynotes/0817RTDN.html from http://www.ttgnet.com/rbtdaynotes.html.

Thanks for a great site!

Brian Dahl CPROG

Arghh. Screwed by Windows NT and/or FrontPage again! You can access that file using lower-case "rtdn". Microsoft's inexcusably casual treatment of case has once again caused a problem. What's worse, is that FP won't let me rename the file to 0817RTDN.html from 0817rtdn.html, because it regards them as the same file name! I'm going to have to go back, rename each problem file to some arbitrary name and then re-rename it back to the correct file name, but using upper-case letters. And even then, there's no guarantee that it'll work, or if it does work that it will stay the way it is. FP arbitrarily converts the case of file names (along with changing their date/timestamp) for no reason whatsoever. I hate Microsoft. The obvious answer is that if you want to use FP, you should choose a web host that runs Windows NT Server rather than the case-sensitive UNIX. I hate Microsoft. I'll get to the problem files when I can, but it's likely to be a while. Until then, if you get such an error, changing the case in the browser should allow you to retrieve the file. I hate Microsoft.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: spworley at worley dot com
Sent: Tuesday, November 30, 1999 5:17 PM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: G400 dual head in NT

You can use dual head on in NT with the G400.. that's what I'm using right now!

You do have to bring up the Matrix Display Properties panel, and click "Use secondary display controller as a Windows Monitor" to activate it. This is almost hidden.. it took me 30 minutes to realize that two-monitor support was disabled by default.

Two monitors are great! Especially as a programmer, one 21" monitor has my editor for source code, and the other monitor runs my program. This would also be a great setup for writing documentation since you don't need to keep changing from your editor to your application and back.

I read your page every day.. thanks for sharing your experiences with us.

-Steve
steve at worley dot com

Thanks! I wasn't aware of that. The last time I spoke with my contact at Matrox, she told me that NT support for dual-head wasn't implemented yet.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Shawn Wallbridge [mailto:swallbridge@home.com]
Sent: Tuesday, November 30, 1999 6:59 PM
To: Robert Bruce Thompson
Subject: Adaptec Raid Controller

A friend of mine asked me if there is anyway to rebuild a raid partition table for an Adaptec RAID controller without loosing the data. I told him I wasn't sure, but I thought so. I told him to call Adaptec. But now I am curious. I figured I would ask you.

Do you know, off the top of your head?

Shawn

I don't know. Perhaps one of my readers will. But I suspect Adaptec is your best bet.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: maceda@pobox.com [mailto:maceda@pobox.com]
Sent: Tuesday, November 30, 1999 8:15 PM
To: webmaster@ttgnet.com
Subject: Pinout diferences

"Any Socket 370 processor, for example, will physically fit any Socket 370 motherboard."

True

"There are no arbitrary differences in pin outs between different Socket 370 processors to render one or another unusable with a given motherboard."

I don't know about "arbitrary", but two pins differ from the Celeron PPGA and the new PIII. Earlier Socket 370 motherboards will not accept the newer PIIIs regardless of their voltage regulator (actually you can solder a jumper cable on the MB to allow this, but I doubt you will get BIOS support).

I am about to assemble two dual workstations and because of monetary constrains I am putting dual Celerons in Tekram Slot 1 motherboards based on the 440BX chipset. This motherboard has a voltage regulator that will provide the necessary 1.6V for newer PIIIs. The Celerons will be fitted in Tekram's PPGA-Slot1 adapters that support both Celerons and socketed PIIIs. Using PC133 memory allows me to swap processors in 6 to 8 months with PIIIs running at 133MHz FSB (of course this will only work with PCI graphics cards). This will give me another 6 to 8 months of useful performance.

Francisco Garcia
Maceda maceda@pobox.com

Well, yes, but again the question is "so what?" The point is that current motherboards accommodate a broad range of processors. The fact that old motherboards don't accept some new processors is certainly nothing out of the ordinary. When Intel started shipping split-voltage P55C Pentium/MMX CPUs, no one thought it unusual that they needed a new motherboard, both for split-voltage support and MMX support. It's the same situation here.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: ROBERT RUDZKI [mailto:rasterho@pacbell.net]
Sent: Wednesday, December 01, 1999 1:04 AM
To: Robert Bruce Thompson
Subject: Daynotes Home; Mail Home and Butchers in White Lab Coats

Bob:

I noticed your daynotes home page has a left column link to a mail home page which I believe is left over from when you attempted to split mail and daynotes apart ala A Certain Science Fiction Writer's page layout... Is it there for historical purposes or just trolling for people with too much time on their hands...? =8^-)

The local paper had a wire about doctors killing 44,000 to 98,000 people yearly thru malpractice and negligence. Just remember those numbers the next time you see doctors hollering on the tv about evil handguns and center for disease control solutions to so-called 'gun-violence'...

There are a lot more handguns than doctors in the us of a and doctors kill a lot more people every year.

Chris Ward-Johnson has a nice home page I read his 'put on the feed-bag' diary-page back for several months. Kee-rist this man can eat, drink and holler about the phone service and his seat-mates on the plane to no end. I am glad he takes the Tube home especially when he wakes and cannot remember the trip home...

Robert Rudzki
rasterho@pacbell.net
http://home.pacbell.net/rasterho
"When the BATF declares a particular cartridge or small-arm to be "non-sporting' and thus not importable, can they quote the relevant text of the 2nd Amendment that applies?"

No, you're correct that that link is an artifact. I have more and more of those as the web site gets older. That one's fixed now, anyway.

 


 

 

 

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Thursday, 2 December 1999

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Today is Barbara's birthday. She turns twenty-twenty-five today, and doesn't look a day older than twenty-eleven. 

I couldn't figure out what to get her. She'd asked me to buy her a copy of Family Tree Maker (or something like that) back in about March. I'd tried to do it several times, but every time I tried the vendors were out of stock. Apparently, these programs are updated frequently. At any rate, I finally got serious about it last week and did some reading on the web. PC Magazine reviewed four such programs last April, three of which were from different divisions of the same company. There was FT Maker, FT Creator, and Ultimate FT. Reading the PC Magazine review, it looked as though Ultimate FT was the most powerful. I checked with Insight. They had it in stock, so I ordered it. I just hope it does what she wants, because I'm clueless about genealogy (or is that "geneology"?). 

We were supposed to go to a nice restaurant for dinner tonight. I've come down with some sort of bug, so it's not clear whether we'll go or not. Barbara insists not, and says it's no big deal, but she does think birthdays and holidays are special, so we'll see.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: J.H. Ricketson [mailto:culam@neteze.com]
Sent: Wednesday, December 01, 1999 9:06 PM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: Extra Set of Cables for KVM Switch

Dear Bob,

Read with interest your recent trials & tribulations with a mechanical video switch. I recently bought a Cybex SwitchView 2-port KVM switch. Works perfectly, and highly recommended. Really convenient working two boxes from one chair, monitor, etc. Doubles your fun. Once you get used to the convenience, I guarantee you'll never look back, unless to wonder why you waited so long. The Cybex SwitchView can easily be cascaded in the event of future expansion.

HOWEVER: ALL the ports on the back are FEMALE. This means you have to have (or get) non-standard male-to-male PS2 and DB15 extension cords in order to connect to your boxes. Keyboard, mouse, and video will connect just fine to the Switchview, as they all have standard male connectors. Facing this, I panicked, as I needed the KVM switch online as of yesterday. I overbought, and now have two extra sets of 10' male-to-male adaptor cables - what is needed to connect two PS2 & DB15 video equipped boxes to the KVM. POINT: if you anticipate buying a KVM switch that requires them, I would be happy to donate them. It is most unlikely that I'll ever have more than two boxes online at once, so they are totally redundant, and not worth the hassle of returning for a refund.

Think it over, and let me know at your convenience. No hurry. They're not going anywhere.

Best regards,

JHR
--

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

Thanks very much for the offer, but I'm in the same position you are. I have half a dozen cable sets myself. Incidentally, all KVM boxes I've seen use those MM cables. You're correct that it'd make more sense to use MF cables, which could also be used as normal extension cables, but perhaps there's a reason why they do it that way. If I were you, I'd put those cables somewhere where you can find them, because computers have a way of proliferating. You may find in a year or two that you suddenly need to hook up a third (or fourth) machine to run Linux or something. Thanks again.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: James T. Crider [mailto:jim@docjim.com]
Sent: Thursday, December 02, 1999 12:54 AM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: Yesterday's Journal

>I'm sure that Dr. Jim will question the wisdom of arbitrarily taking aspirin routinely, but I regard routine low-dose aspirin therapy as relatively benign, and 3.0 to 4.7 mg/kg daily is a very small dose.

Believe it or not, I completely agree with you that it is wise to take an aspirin a day if you're male and over 40. Low dose may be as low as 80 mg/day which is equivalent to one baby aspirin a day (some studies have suggested that this dose is enough for heart attack prophylaxis). I don't recommend more than 500 mg/day on a routine basis unless you are treating arthritis and 325 mg/day is more than enough for heart attack prevention. You are wise to take an enteric coated variety to reduce irritation to the gastric lining.

Kudos for the multivitamin supplement also. I recommend them for everyone because none of us get enough vitamins and the RDA's are only politically correct bare minimums not what is really needed by the body. I would only quibble that you are not taking enough supplements to make up for your hideous eating habits which are only too common (in my house too).

I must get my wife's Sony Mavica and take a picture of the supplements I take. I can just imagine the pictures that will appear on the other Daynoters' sites now that Jerry has started this though (plates of food, dog poop, ..... the possibilities are endless).

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

I must admit that I was surprised to learn that children's aspirin is still available, what with all the to-do about Reyes Syndrome a few years back. I've never been a big fan of acetaminophen or the other NSAIDs, but I figured that a parent who gave a kid aspirin nowadays would be charged with child abuse or something. I'll speak to Barbara about upping my multivitamin dose to two per day. Thanks. 

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: bilbrey@pacbell.net [mailto:bilbrey@pacbell.net]
Sent: Thursday, December 02, 1999 1:23 AM
To: webmaster@ttgnet.com
Subject: Hey Bob...

Hi, Bob,

Are you interested in a StarOffice 5.1 CD? You and Steve might want it around at some point, and I would imagine that neither one of you wants to d/l 70M on a 56K connection... <g> anyway, they were handing them out at the SVLUG meeting tonight, and I managed two, so could send one your way if that would be useful...

-- 

regards, 
Brian Bilbrey
 bilbrey@pacbell.net 
http://www.OrbDesigns.com/ 
brian@orbdesigns.com

Thanks, but I already have it. Being a Real Man, I don't hesitate to download 70 MB files over my 31.2 dial-up connection. If it takes eight hours, so what? It's all in the background anyway.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Jan Swijsen [mailto:qjsw@oce.nl]
Sent: Thursday, December 02, 1999 4:18 AM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: Re: displays

Definitively if they 'drop' it at your front door.

I know you don't knock them, shoot maybe but not knock :), I was merely mentioning my own experiences. Another quality thing that differenciates the top brands from the bottom is the degradation over time. I have had a Goldstar (14inch) that became un-usably fuzzy after just three years. Because this is difficult to measure you never find it in any magazines. Maybe your connections with the tech people have more information.

Excellent point, and one I should have mentioned. Inexpensive monitors simply don't last as long as good monitors. I've seen that myself around here. I have a Princeton that died about a month after its warranty expired, and a couple of Mag Innovision monitors whose picture quality started to degrade severely after little more than a year. I use them for servers and test bed systems. I've talked to various people in the monitor industry about this problem, and the consensus is that inexpensive monitors are likely to degrade severely after as little as a year of sustained use. The more expensive monitors use better grade components, have better quality control, and are likely to last for three years or more of full-time use (more if they aren't used 8 hours/day). Powering down your monitor when it won't be used for an extended period extends its life, as does using a screen-blanking screen saver (versus one that displays changing images).

 


 

 

 

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Friday, 3 December 1999

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Barbara had the CD changer crammed full of Saturnalia CDs yesterday afternoon. It was playing along happily, finished a track, and crashed. The first thing I checked for was a Windows Inside logo, but that didn't seem to be the problem. The thing was still lit up, but pushing any of the buttons did nothing. Not a good sign. I suppose everything has to die sometime, but that CD changer was bought in 1994 and has probably had less than 200 hours total use in the intervening five years. It's a JVC, and I'm becoming less and less happy with them.

I wouldn't have minded the CD changer dying so much, but it has five of Barbara's CDs in a cartridge, and it won't let go of them. I put it on the kitchen table and pulled the cover. There's an immensely complex physical mechanism that moves the CD from either the individual tray or the 5-CD cartridge back to the actual CD player mechanism at the rear of the CD changer (to the left in the photo.) That mechanism has taken hold of that cartridge and won't let go of it. I was hoping that there would be an obvious motor fuse or manual release visible, but I can't find anything. So, the choice is either to carefully disassemble the mechanism or to use brute force. I'll probably use the latter.

jvc-cd-guts.jpg (55039 bytes)

I'm used to working on PCs, which have all for years used surface-mount technology for mounting components, so I was rather surprised to see how primitive this five-year old JVC CD player really is. The circuit board is neatly done and well-dressed, but the component density is lower than anything I've seen in a computer in twenty years or more, and it uses mostly discrete components.

jvc-circuit-board.jpg (87772 bytes)

Well, we've temporarily solved the problem, anyway. I had a spare JVC CD player in my office, which we used to replace the failed unit. What's really weird is that as soon as we put that one in place and fired it up, Barbara observed that it sounded a lot better. I told her that was ridiculous, and that even inexpensive CD players sound just as good as the most expensive ones. I mean, when you have flat frequency response from 2 Hz to 20+ kHz and distortion of about 0.00%, what difference can there be? Unfortunately, if I'm honest, I'd have to say that I think it sounds better, too. The sound seems richer somehow. Of course, that may be because I'd never cleaned the changer. It was coming due for its five-year cleaning, though.

Malcolm is turning into a back-sleeper, just like Duncan. Here's one of him near the front door. I continue to be amazed by how well the Olympus D400-Z focuses in low light. When I took this photo, it was so dark in the foyer that I had a hard time telling through the optical viewfinder whether or not all of Malcolm was in the frame. The Olympus took it in stride, though. It focused and exposed properly. A very nice little camera.

malcolm-foyer-sleep.jpg (30684 bytes)

Brian Bilbrey reports problems viewing PNG images in Netscape. He can see the thumbnail PNGs fine, but he's unable to see the full-size PNG image when he clicks on the thumbnail. That's actually pretty common behavior. Many browsers display in-line images (those embedded with an image tag in an HTML page) just fine, but are unable to display directly-linked PNG files. There's a great deal more detail about this problem here.  

The problem is, I don't have a great deal of choice. I won't use GIFs because of Unisys's ridiculous demand for licensing fees from web-site operators. I tried converting the PNGs to JPEGs, but a small PNG turns into a huge JPEG, by a factor of at least five and sometimes ten or more. I could create a separate HTML page for each large image and use an image tag within that page, but I don't really have time to do that.

My guess is that PNGs will ultimately triumph, so the real answer is to start using a browser that supports them properly. Supposedly, Opera and IE5 do so, with minor exceptions. In fact, I've seen exactly the same misbehavior that Brian describes in some (but not all) installations of IE5 and IE5.01.

We did end up going out to dinner last night, and very nice it was. I'd list what we had, but I don't know the French names for any of it and it doesn't sound nearly as impressive in English.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Chuck Waggoner [waggoner at gis dot net]
Sent: Thursday, December 02, 1999 10:35 AM
To: webmaster@ttgnet.com
Subject: Win98

I'm just catching up after the holiday and noticed someone asking last week if Win98 is worth the upgrade over Win95. To which I must reply with a very positive yes! (for those who do not use NT.) If one were a network administrator, the situation might be different, but for the individual user there are many small advancements that add up to make it well worth the effort.

In my case, PnP was flawless in 98; quite problematic in 95, requiring IRQ intervention. Installation was quicker and required practically no supervision. The power tools, which were extra in 95, are included in 98. And, at least in my case, Win98 seems much better at memory management--much less drive thrashing with the same amount of physical memory.

But--for me--most important of all, when browsing files with WinExplorer, each folder remembers its own viewing option settings. The inability of Win95 to do this was one of the highest on the list of annoyances in the O'Reilly Windows book. Win98 fixes that, and alone was worth the price to me, as I use WinExplorer as my desktop, replacing Norton Commander of DOS days in that role. I don't find the real 'desktop', which is merely a folder within the scheme of things, to be of much use. As with a desk drawer, things finally just get lost in it, as it affords little or no real organizational help of its own. Moreover, everything important that Microsoft puts on the desktop by default is accessible in the first level of the left panel browsing tree in WinExplorer.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: H [mailto:hstuck@excite.com]
Sent: Thursday, December 02, 1999 5:00 PM
To: webmaster@ttgnet.com
Subject: viatmins / iron

Probably with vitamins, have hit a hot topic.

One caution is with iron content of vits. Unless you regularly donate blood, as you may know, it generally is not recommended for adult males to take vitamins/minerals with iron in them.

Monitors - just got a Hitachi 812 (21"). Originally was going to get a 19, but decided that the extra screen real-estate would be appreciated. It is. Run 1200x1024. I don't replace monitors like systems, and it takes me about three years to replace a system. Superceeds a 17" Viewsonic 7.

I hadn't thought about the iron issue, but that makes sense. In line with Dr. Jim's advice, I turned to Barbara last night and said, "Dr. Jim says I should take two vitamins instead of just one." She responded, "Nonsense. One is plenty." So I'm taking one.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: ROBERT RUDZKI [mailto:rasterho@pacbell.net]
Sent: Thursday, December 02, 1999 8:32 PM
To: Robert Bruce Thompson
Subject: WTO, Seattle riots and how many Ph.D's does Pounelle have anyway?

Our local paper, The Press-Enterprise had several articles blaming the Seattle police and evil multi-national corporations for being so awful that the rioters in Seattle had no choice but to smash shop windows, wreck cars and assault bus drivers. Then their editorial page actually defended the violence of the rioters when they looted a Starbuck's coffee shop on the grounds that people laid off because their job got exported to a Chinese gulag might feel upset. I wonder what the looters told their bosses to get time off to go riot, ie, if they had jobs which is unlikely.

Well now. I got laid off from my last real job some years ago due to slow sales they said, I wonder if I had shown up the next day at the corporate offices of the The Press-Enterprise, broke in the office windows and front door, assaulted the receptionist and then started wrecking cars in the company parking lot they would understand I was just 'upset'... and pay for my legal defense when the cops came?

I sort of agree with Pournelle about free trade not necessarily being a good thing, when you have Chinese gulags filled with millions of slaves working 14 hours a day how do you keep the low-end jobs here? Any rational employer will attempt to keep his costs down and labor is usually the single most expensive item in a company's overhead.

And with labor that cheap all over the 3rd world it doesn't make economic sense to automate assembly here. We can use Russian and Indian programmers working for minimum wage compared to what a programmer earns here, like authors programmers can work anywhere on the planet as long as they have a phone line and a modem...

Maybe we can put all our growing unemployables on welfare, then create a huge bureaucracy to move them to 'government' jobs which is just another form of welfare IMO.

Jerry now tells us he has a Ph.D. in political philosphy, "Smaller jurisdictions was the remedy proposed by the Framers in the Convention of 1787 and having spent a lifetime studying the subject and having got a PhD in political philosophy, I have never come up with a better scheme." yet his old Byte tag line told us for years it was in psychology, maybe he needs to take some more diet supplements to improve memory retention... =8^-) Of course with such a colossal ego... err... intellect, he may indeed have multiple Ph.D's in which case I apologize. I would ask him myself but my email program has a glitch in it and I have not gotten any response to the last couple I sent him. . But I don't think 'Dr.' Tom of Tom's Hardware is a real medical doctor either.

Robert Rudzki
rasterho@pacbell.net
http://home.pacbell.net/rasterho
"When the BATF declares a particular cartridge or gun to be "non-sporting' and thus not importable, can they quote the relevant text of the 2nd Amendment that applies?"

Pournelle does indeed have two doctorates, and Thomas Pabst is an MD. I suppose next you'll be questioning my two doctorates (in Chemistry and Mathematics), but I bought those fair and square.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Frank A. Love [mailto:falove@home.com]
Sent: Thursday, December 02, 1999 11:34 PM
To: Robert Bruce Thompson
Subject: AMD & Athlon

Hi Again!

I'm curious what your current opinion of AMD is.

Consider: They have announced that they will break even this quarter. They have already increased the clock rate on the Athlon to 750MHz and are apparently on track to be the first to acheive 1GHz. There are more and more motherboard maunufacturers making Athlon motherboards (At least 4 now!) PC magazine rated only one system based on the 733MHz PIII Coppermine chip and new 820 chipset superior to the Athlon 700MHz based sytems in their current review of the fastest PCs- and then only by a razor thin margin.

I think they have caught Intel flatfooted and are going to give them some real competition. Intel has depended for too long on the same CPU core. The only benchmarks that the Pentiom III is winning at equivalent clock rates nowadays are those that depend heavily on the use of Intel's SIMD instructions. There are persistent reports that Intel is having yield problems and the new 733MHz PIII is in short supply while Athlons are readily available. Gateway is reportedly going to come out with AMD based systems again, after Intel backed off from a proceesor price rebate that was the reason Gateway announed they would no longer supply any AMD based PC's.

Intel's dependance on RAMBUS may yet prove their downfall. Even their pockets aren't deep enough to make up the price difference between that and DDRAM for long enough to ensure it's adoption industry wide and with AMD's Athlon stealing publicity away from the Pentium line their profit margins are only going to get thinner- and if they do manage to get it adopted as the industry standard and bring the RAMBUS price down, AMD can just design for RAMBUS and still have the superior benchmarks

Granted the Athlon has had a few reported teething troubles (mostly due, I think, to poor quality motherboards) it's still a demonstrably superior design (AMD's use of the Alpha bus structure was brilliant and saved them millions in design cost while giving the Athlon the benefit of a design already proven to run at astronomical clock rates.) and AMD has already demonstrated their ability to increase the clock rate almost at will.

Intel's only long term hope is the Itanium (formerly Merced) which has yet to be proven- and AMD has now announced that they will make their own 64-bit processor,code-named Sledehammer) which will be X86 compatible and able to run 32 and 16-bit legacy apps

Finally, I've been reading every reader response to any story I can find about the Ahtlon and the last time I saw this kind of fervor about a new processor design was when the 486 came out. People are almost religious in their comments. When you thrrow out the extemists from both ends of the spectrum you are left with almost no people who have anything good to say about Intel!

All I can say is Intel had better have something really good hidden in their labs or AMD is going to eat their lunch!

Cheers! 
Frank A. Love

My current view of AMD is basically unchanged. They have a long, hard row to hoe if they're to make any significant progress against Intel. As I've said repeatedly, technology is not the issue. AMD has frequently produced processors with very good technology. I question their ability to execute, which has historically been their problem. 

That said, they're doing well at getting Athlon's in increasingly faster versions to market. Even more important, although largely overlooked, is the fact that they're starting to ship their 0.18 micron versions. That's good in two respects. First, the Achilles Heel of the Athlon has been its huge appetite for power, which in turn made it difficult to design decent Athlon motherboards and resulted in high heat production. Second, going to 0.18 micron from 0.25 micron means they can fit many more processors on a wafer, which greatly reduces their production costs.

It seems to me that AMD's main weakness right now is that they are getting killed by Intel in the mainstream market. The Celeron is low-margin, granted, but Intel sells them by the million. It's all well and good to claim pride of place in the high-margin 733/750 MHz market, but the fact is that relatively few of these processors are sold. AMD needs something to compete with the Celeron, and the K6* Socket 7 processors aren't it. AMD needs to introduce a downscale Slot A version of the Athlon that they can sell in huge volumes if they really want to compete with Intel on an equal footing. The trouble is, I don't think AMD has the fab capacity to do that.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Frank A. Love [mailto:falove@home.com]
Sent: Friday, December 03, 1999 2:17 AM
To: Robert Bruce Thompson
Subject: 140GB CD-ROM

HI!

Would like your reaction to this story at http://www.theregister.co.uk/991130-000011.html about a new CD-ROM storage technique that stores multiple layers of data in a CD-ROM type disc that will be available this time next year. This will supposedly enable storage of 140GB on one CD sized disc. First available in read only format but also to come out later in read-write form.

If true, this will kill DVD dead as a doorrnail!

Sorry to be "bugging" you so much lately but there seems to be so much change in the air lately that a story like this makes me wonder..... I plan to upgrade my current computer when I can get about three times the performance for $2000 or less and this sort of makes me want to wait to see if it really pans out- so I want your reaction to the story. I remember other "revolutionary" products that never saw the light of day or which never lived up to their pre-release hype and I trust your opinion (and the opinions of most of your readership) about things like this a lot more than I trust a news outlet which, after all, exists to write news stories- whether a story exists or not.

I appreciate your comments about monitors. The one I'm currently using is 14" and 8 years old but still works fine. I've been thinking about getting a bigger monitor and have been looking in the mail-order catalogs at monitor prices and will now focus on the brands you have mentioned.

This is yet another instance where your observations and opinions have arrived at an opportune time for me so thanks for all the time and effort you put into your journal. Your efforts ARE appreciated and Happy Birthday to Barbara!

Thanks for the kind words. I think it's too early to tell about this new technology. As you say, there have been a lot of good technologies that never went anywhere. With any new technology like this, you basically go from science to engineering to production to marketing. There are a lot of pitfalls along the way, and people are naturally optimistic when they estimate how long something will take and how easy it will be to overcome difficulties. My guess is that it will be at least two or three years, if ever, before this technology becomes widely available. Even then, bad marketing might kill it. I wouldn't hold my breath.

 


 

 

 

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Saturday, 4 December 1999

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Barbara is off this morning visiting a prospective adoptive home for one of their rescue Border Collies, leaving me with demon puppy. Actually, he started turning really demonic several days ago. He was also breaking house training. He had been almost perfectly house trained, but had started having accidents. We noticed that he was whipping around biting at his tail and tail head. That, of course, is not unusual behavior for a puppy, but we were suspicious because Malcolm is Duncan's half brother, and Duncan is subject to impacted anal glands. If you've ever read the Herriot stories, Tricki Wu suffered from impacted anal glands, which Mr. Pumphrey called "flop-bott". The symptoms of impacted anal glands are when the dog chews its back and tail-head and/or drags its butt along the ground. Malcolm was doing both. 

So we took Malcolm into the bathroom for what we fondly call a "butt squeeze." Sure enough, Malcolm has it too, and badly. I got to hold the sharp end while Barbara was expressing Malcolm's anal glands, and he bit me. I don't really blame him. I'd probably have bitten him had the positions been reversed.

Barbara made an emergency appointment with the vet, where Malcolm got a cortisone injection and a course of antibiotics for his impacted and infected anal glands. They're gradually clearing up, although he's still having problems. I think he needs another butt squeeze, but Barbara wants to wait until the swelling goes down some more. When we do it this time, I'll wear heavy gloves.

Unfortunately, this is likely to be an ongoing problem, although it can sometimes be minimized by proper feeding. Barbara feeds Duncan a high-fibre premium dog food and sprinkles bran flakes over the food before serving it, which seems to have minimized the problem for Duncan. Fortunately, the problem is disgusting but not dangerous. When we discovered this problem with Duncan, our vet (and friend) Sue Stephens told us that the anal glands could be removed surgically, but she didn't recommend it. There's about a 2% chance that the surgery will render the animal incontinent. Many people apparently take that chance because they are unwilling to express the anal glands manually. We'd rather do something disgusting periodically rather than risk the health of our dogs.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Jan Swijsen [mailto:qjsw@oce.nl]
Sent: Friday, December 03, 1999 8:58 AM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: Re: Hurt feelings

[...]

The voltage requirements I understand, and make perfect sense (). But why they changed the reset pins is not entirely clear. Check http://www.theregister.co.uk/991101-000006.html for an interesting take. Maybe, just maybe there is a good reason for moving the pin around. But then I wonder why Intel is puffing cloud about it. Your question "Why would they do that?" stands firm and until Intel answers that the intentional-incompatible theory is just as valid as any other.

This is not the way you make friends in industry. And if you don't have friends left you may find yourself, justly or unjustly, in court.

Well, again, I don't see the problem. I simply assumed that the processor layout required making that change, which I'll continue to assume until someone proves otherwise. And I'd expect that that would already have been done, given that that information is publicly available and there are plenty of people who don't like Intel. It doesn't much matter anyway, as few earlier motherboards support VRM 8.4.

Once again, I ask you what would be the point of Intel making that change arbitrarily? The only possible answer I can think of is to force new motherboard sales to people who want to upgrade processors. Why would Intel want to make it hard to buy a high-margin processor in order to sell a low-margin motherboard, especially since about 99.9% of the people who would consider making such an upgrade are using non-Intel motherboards and would be almost certain to replace them with other non-Intel motherboards?

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Alan Donders [alan_donders at hotmail dot com]
Sent: Friday, December 03, 1999 12:34 PM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: Aspirin

Dear Bob, 

Actually, if you check in most any chain drugstore, you'll find Adult Low Strength (81mg) Enteric Coated Aspirin in both brand name and generic versions.

Ah, I see. When Dr. Jim referred to "Children's Aspirin" he meant what used to be called that, but is now called "Adult Low Strength" in order to allow people to continue to give aspirin to their children while preventing being sued. I hate lawyers.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Holden Aust [mailto:hausth@netscape.net]
Sent: Friday, December 03, 1999 8:07 PM
To: webmaster@ttgnet.com
Subject: CD players do NOT all sound the same

You express surprise that you and Barbara heard an audible difference in sound quality between two CD players. The commonly measured specs make it look like they all must sound the same, but in listening to several different players, you will hear noticeable differences in the sound. There are technical differences in the Digital to Analog Converters, there are differences in the filters which come after the DACs to filter out the artifacts of the conversion process, and there are differences in the analogue amplifiers that boost the output up to line level. And you can hear those differences, as you yourself have noted.

I find that the types of music you're listening to will have an impact on how distinct or how subtle the differences are. With some popular music which is deliberately distorted and the signal is very heavily processed, the difference between two players can be subtle and can take careful listening to hear, but if you listen to a CD of well-recorded acoustic classical, jazz, folk, or world music, the difference can be night and day.

I've found that among the less-expensive CD players, the ones made by Philips, who invented the CD along with Sony, sound better than any of the other brands even two or three times as much. I once had a chance to compare a $150 Philips to a $750 Denon and the Philips flattened the Denon. Philips high-end brand is Marantz. Both Philips and Marantz are harder to find than the more common Japanese brands, but they're worth the search. Friends of mine who've bought a Philips or Marantz CD player invaribly tell me later that they now hear details and nuances on their CDs that they didn't even know were there.

Here is one source for the $129 Philips 5-disc changer:

Here is a source for the various $249 Marantz changers:

www.hifi.com (go to Home Audio, CD Players)

The 5 disk turntable changers are the most reliable multi-disk changers, so you might want to look at one of them.

Hmmm. Perhaps, although I was under the impression that specifications were based on the Line Out signal, and I've always considered that advertised differences in DA converters and so on were simply marketing hype. I still think the fact that I'd never cleaned the thing in five years might have something to do with it, but you may be right. Incidentally, that URL for the Philips 5-disc changer has the all-time record for the longest URL I've ever posted. I had to embed it to prevent it from totally screwing up the display of the page. 

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: ROBERT RUDZKI [mailto:rasterho@pacbell.net]
Sent: Friday, December 03, 1999 9:13 PM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: My apologies to Pournelle and Pabst

OK I am sorry I doubted Pournelle had even one Ph.D. let alone two, and I will accept your statement that Pabst is a real MD, although with the news recently on just how many patients the butchers in the white coats kill in US hospitals does nothing to reassure me. Maybe we should have a 5 day waiting period from the time you buy your medical degree certificate to when you can start cutting on people at the clinic or hospital...

My brother in law works for a huge aerospace corporation in LA in the PMEL/Metrology labs and is always telling stories of their Ph.D.'s and various rocket scientists, real bright guys with lots of expensive university training but little common sense and they can't get their PC's to work either. They insist on calibrating equipment out to 5 decimal places when the measurment only has to be accurate to one decimal place.

Has anyone heard from the Martian lander yet...? =8^-) I hope it's not a English to metric conversion issue, again.

I know a lot of people who have a Ph.D. and they seem to be as level-headed and to have as much common sense as anyone else I know. Usually more. I think this "yeah, they may be smart but they have no common sense" attitude is usually sour grapes from people who aren't bright. Just as the argument that the SATs (or GMATs or MCATs) are meaningless or biased  is always made by people who (probably coincidentally) didn't do well on them. Bright people are usually bright in all aspects of living, excepting the so-called idiot savant, and I've never known one of those.

 


 

 

 

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Sunday, 5 December 1999

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Important Notice

pair Networks is moving to a new data center tomorrow. This site, along with others hosted at pair Networks (including www.jerrypournelle.com, www.wakeolda.com, www.robichaux.net, www.tomshardware.com, and many others) will be down during the move. pair Networks says that the move will commence around 7:00 a.m. EST and should be 50% completed by noon, at which time they will cut over network connectivity to the new site. They are moving servers in small groups, which means that some servers may be inaccessible for as little as an hour, while others (the first and last servers moved) may be inaccessible for as much as five hours. An average server will be down for 1/4 of the total move time, or about 2.5 hours. That's assuming that everything goes as planned, which it may of course not.

This also means that mail will be down. If you send mail to any ttgnet.com address while the server is down, you will likely receive a "transient delivery failure" warning message. Your SMTP server will continue attempting to deliver the message, so there is no need to resend it. The message will be delivered once the ttgnet.com server is again accessible. If you urgently need to send email to us during the outage, please address it to thompsrb@bellsouth.net. Please note that this address should be used only for sending urgent mail while the server is down.

We apologize for the inconvenience.


When I walked into the hall bathroom last night and flipped on the light, here's what I saw:

malcolm-toiletpaper.jpg (30874 bytes)

Malcolm discovers toilet paper

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Bo Leuf [mailto:bo@leuf.com]
Sent: Saturday, December 04, 1999 11:20 AM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: flatraters!

You posted:

"Being a Real Man, I don't hesitate to download 70 MB files over my 31.2 dial-up connection. If it takes eight hours, so what? It's all in the background anyway."

Spoken like a true "flatrater" <g>. Those of us who pay-by-minute on our dialups, European style (plus Value Added Tax) always have to do extensive cost analysis (>> 1 Mb) and determine when "buying the CD" starts looking attractive.

You have my sympathy. BellSouth says that my service is "unlimited" and I take them at their word. I'm normally connected for at least 10 hours straight. They have an autodisconnect after 12 hours, but even that's not really a problem. As soon as they drop the connection, WinGate re-dials it. The only time I worry about their 12 hour disconnect timer is if I have a long download to do. In that case, I simply drop the connection manually and then re-dial it, which resets the timer to 12 hours.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Sjon Svenson [mailto:sjon@svenson.com]
Sent: Saturday, December 04, 1999 5:31 PM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: Re: Hurt feelings

Of course there is no real problem. Especially in the light of the VRM8.4 change that will hamper upgrades. But ...

The processor (silicon) is much smaller than the casing with pins. these pins are connected to the silicon by tiny gold wires. I don't believe that the change, in silicon, for a reset line is big enough to warrant moving one pin around. If the silicon changes so much that it cannot be compensated by crossing a few gold wires I don't think that all the other pins can stay. But it could be the case. Until Intel presents some answer all remains hypothetical.

And I see one real advantage for Intel. The Cyrix chip, since they are now from VIA I can't keep up with their naming, that is designed to fit the PPGA will have to be retested in the 'new' socket. Causing a further delay. More importantly they are giving the signal that they may change the socket rules as and when they like, thus throwing spanners in the planning of competitors. Especially motherboard competitors. These always try to make boards that can accept as many processors as possible. To do so they must anticipate a lot. While the classic move up is in clock multipliers and FSB speeds most non-intel board are far more forward thinking. I'd call it good strategic manoeuvring from Intel. But then I am not competing with them:-)

>...fine, but are unable to display directly-linked PNG files. T.... 

The easiest way to display the image is using the back button and then the forward button. The image gets loaded in the local cache, it is just the displaying that goes wrong. Displaying from cache OTOH has no problem with images. Or so it seems on my machine.

I doubt the change will have any effect at all on the VIA/Cyrix Socket 370 CPUs. Every new Socket 370 board I know of has those two pins jumpered (which allows using either PPGA Celeron CPUs or FC/PGA Pentium III CPUs in the same motherboard). Why would any motherboard vendor do otherwise? So the VIA/Cyrix CPUs should work fine, assuming proper BIOS support.

As far as PNGs, my problem is that IE won't touch them at all unless they're referenced by an in-line image tag in an HTML page. When I click on one of my thumbnails, IE displays the download dialog, so the full-size PNG never makes it to the cache.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: James T. Crider [mailto:jim@docjim.com]
Sent: Saturday, December 04, 1999 10:48 PM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: Supplements

Bob:

Sorry I haven't written sooner, my days lately have been consumed by ACLS notes. When I wrote to you before about the supplements you take, I should have specifically said that I recommend specific doses for people based on their past medical history and family history as well as what medications they are on. I was not recommending that you double the dose of what you are currently taking as Barbara pointed out to you.

I personally take mostly antioxidant supplements as I am most concerned about heart disease and aging, the heart disease because there is a strong family history and aging for obvious reasons. I believe that some of the consequences of aging can be delayed by keeping active and supplementing with antioxidants. I make sure I get 1000-2000 mg of Vitamin C per day, 400 I.U. of Vitamin E, 1000 mg of garlic (not an antioxidant but to lower cholesterol), and 10000 IU of Vitamin A. In addition I take a B complex and a multivitamin with iron and folic acid which are important even in men. It is my understanding that our intestinal mucosal cells will limit the amount of iron absorption to only what we need. There is a rare disease called hemochromatosis where you can absorb and deposit toxic levels of iron but I am not worried about it in most people.

I see that the term "children's aspirin" has now been cleared up for you. I still call them that, have had a hard time trying to call them low dose aspirin since I am used to calling them baby aspirin or children's aspirin. I am in complete agreement with you about lawyers also.

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

Thanks. Like you, I believe that taking Vitamin C and other antioxidants and free radical inhibitors is a good idea. I've asked Barbara to get me some 1 g Vitamin C tablets, some garlic, and the other stuff you mention.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: ROBERT RUDZKI [mailto:rasterho@pacbell.net]
Sent: Sunday, December 05, 1999 12:59 AM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: Ph.D's, Aptitude tests and NASA

I for one have no close relationships with Ph.D's, I met some of my wife's professors at USC and they seemed OK especially the ones retired from the military.

My brother in law has an EE and is pretty smart and a network administrator, he has served in the military as well so I tend to believe his work stories for the most part.

I have never taken any of Aptitude Tests you mention but I know that coaching can improve scores on the tests which means they don't really test aptitude at all, but rather test-taking skills. What that says to the raison d' etre of the tests I cannot say since I don't live in France or drive a BMW [anymore]. As for being biased, if speaking standard English and acting like you live in the suburbs vice an urban homeless crazy person is bias, so be it!

Granted most of the rocket scientists he is in contact with are very specialized experts, his company was heavily involved in SDI ['Star Wars'] back in the days of the cold war, I have no idea what they are doing now, most of their work is still classified and they have but a single customer.

They had a massive commercial power grid failure at the square-mile plant where all the really expensive work gets done, so a committe met to decide a total back-up power solution. Since they draw many kilowatts of power around the clock, this was no trivial decision.

They found 2 giant Korean Peninnsular War vintage US Army diesel generators in a salvage yard, the price was good and real low. After having them hauled to the site, they called in consultants to make them work and were told since the diesel engines had not been run up since 1953 when they were scrapped to the yard, they would have to be totally overhauled along with all the electric bits at some astronomical cost. If they could find parts for machines this old, that is.

They thought they were saving a lot of money since all the local emergency power contractors wanted a lot of money for such a huge power load to be assumed at a moments's notice and maintained for many hours until the commercial power came back on... Ph.D's were at work again on your tax dollar.

Look at NASA and what they are doing in the Mars projects. In the last 39 years at least 32 missions from 3 nations, and 21 have failed.

Ph.D's all over the place and can any one of them explain how finding a few grams of water ice on Mars for billions of $ will change anything here for us?

$3.2 billion for the Hubble Space Telescope, which for the second time is an orbiting useless piece of space junk since the 3rd gyro failed until another $600 million shuttle mission can save its bacon. This so Ph.D's can have giggles over how pretty the color pictures are that it sends back?

How many criminals can we lock up for $3.2 billion, how big a fence can we build along the Rio Bravo, how many States' criminal justice computers can we tie together for $3.2 billion...?

Finally let us not forget the Great Southeast Asian War AKA Vietnam, McGeorge Bundy and Robert Strange MacNamara and all the other Ph.D's who comprised "The Best and the Brightest" who were going to win the war for us...

Standardized tests do indeed correlate strongly with future performance. When I started the MBA program at Wake Forest University's Babcock School in 1983, they did not require the GMAT or any other standardized test for admission. They were in the process of getting the program accredited, and one of the requirements of the accrediting agency was that students be required to take the GMAT. So all of us ended up having to take the GMAT between the first and second years. 

The faculty tried everything they could think of to prove that GMAT scores were not predictive of success in the program. What they found was that GMAT scores correlated strongly with future success in the program, whereas nothing else they attempted to correlate came even close. Others have found that the same is true for the MCATs in medical school, the LSATs in law school, and so on. People who do well on the MCATs do well in medical school and subsequently do well practicing medicine. People who have lower MCAT scores but are admitted to med school on a quota typically graduate near the bottom of their class and become mediocre physicians. Obviously, there are exceptions, but the correlation is very strong.

As far as Ph.D.'s, I think the question is "in what and from where?" Like other things, the Ph.D. has been diluted. But if I encounter someone with a Ph.D. in Chemistry from CalTech or MIT, I'm prepared to believe that the guy knows his stuff. If his Ph.D. is from Podunk U, I won't assume the same.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Dave Farquhar [mailto:dfarq@swbell.net]
Sent: Sunday, December 05, 1999 2:56 AM
To: rasterho@pacbell.net
Cc: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: "Butchers in white coats"

> Maybe we should have a 5 day waiting period from the time you buy your medical degree certificate to when you can start cutting on people at the clinic or hospital...

Come now, that comment is completely and totally uncalled for. You have to absolutely be a saint to deal with insurance companies and the U.S. Government on a daily basis like doctors do, not to mention suspicious and whiney patients. Yes, some doctors are in it for the buck. Those who are frequently realize it's not worth it (there's usually not as much money in it as everyone thinks, and the b.s. doctors go through on a day-to-day basis isn't worth a six-figure salary) and find something else to do.

As for buying your degree, if someone did manage to do that and was unqualified, he or she would have a very difficult time keeping a medical license in this day and age. Doctors generally do a very good job of holding one another accountable, particularly in large communities. In this age of specialization, lack of referrals will kill your career, and no doctor is going to refer a patient to someone s/he wouldn't trust as a patient.

Mistakes do happen, because doctors are human just like anyone else. The difference is, working on computers has far fewer consequences than working on a living being. But I'm sure you have difficulty relating to that, because you sound like someone who's never made a mistake.

Dave Farquhar

 


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