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Daynotes Journal

Week of 27 December 1999

Sunday, 02 January 2000 10:20

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, 27 December 1999

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Yesterday was the first time in months that I didn't post an update. Blame it on A2T (author too tired). Barbara and I spent Boxing Day cleaning up and napping. I was never sure whether this holiday was so-named because you have to deal with all the leftover boxes from the preceding day, or because people are in such foul moods that fist fights break out.

Barbara started moving furniture in the den in the morning, so I knew we were in for a serious cleaning. We also got Barbara's new 900 MHz cordless phone and her new digital answering machine connected. Ordinarily, that wouldn't be much of a problem, but there were some issues to resolve in getting them integrated with the telephone system we use here. But we finally got everything working, so now Barbara won't miss any calls.

Barbara is getting ready to call the vet to see if they have an appointment available today. Kerry, our 12-year old Border Collie, isn't doing well. He has severe hip dysplasia (kind of like rheumatoid arthritis in dogs) and a host of other problems. Until now, he's been able to deal with it pretty well, but the last few days he's been barely able to walk. He's had flare-ups like this in the past and recovered from them, but we know that sooner or later will come a time when he won't be able to bounce back. We're hoping that this isn't that time, but we won't let him suffer.

Kerry was a young dog when my father died in 1990. My mother, I'm sure, regards Kerry as one of her last links to my father. I've pointed out that my brother and I should count, too, but I understand how she feels. If we have to have Kerry put down, it will be very hard for my mother. It will also be very hard for Barbara, because Kerry was really her first dog. She was afraid of dogs when we met, but when my dad died and my mother moved in with us there was no alternative to bringing Kerry along. Barbara had previously thought of dogs as just furry things with fangs, but soon came to realize that each dog has its own personality. Kerry bonded very quickly with Barbara, and vice versa. So, for her, losing Kerry will be like losing a child.

Part of the problem is that most people feel (or think they should feel) that a dog isn't important enough to grieve about. It's just an animal. Losing a dog is not like losing a person, or so it seems. But I don't think that's true. A dog is a member of the family. No matter what happens, we won't have Kerry put down today. Our friend, Sue Stephens, is away over the holidays, and we want her to do what needs to be done, if it needs to be done. We'll see what the vet has to say.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Chris Ward-Johnson [mailto:chriswj@mostxlnt.co.uk]
Sent: Friday, December 24, 1999 10:10 AM
To: 'Robert Bruce Thompson'
Subject: RE: Limiting CD installations

I quite agree with what you say - the Webtrends thing was just the first time I'd seen anything like it. Microsoft have it right - I remember being summoned to a 'High level' briefing three or four years ago by their then-new UK anti-piracy unit. They said they were taking a number of measures to stop people just installing their software as many times as they liked, but it turned out that the main leg on which their entire campaign had to support itself was the printing on each CD of the phrase, 'Please don't copy this CD'. They got even tougher about a year later by changing the wording to 'Do not copy this CD'. I can imagine the frustration all those software pirates in the Far East when they read that and realise their plans have been thwarted...and how long, I wonder, before someone starts distributing software on re-writeable CDs or DVDs which can only be installed if you allow them to be written to via a suitable drive? I rember speaking with Microsoft people about this idea when CD-RWs started becoming affordable a year or two ago, and they were certainly interested then.

Regards

Chris Ward-Johnson
Dr Keyboard - Computing Answers You Can Understand
http://www.drkeyboard.co.uk

Now there's a scary thought. Of course, if someone has a CD writer capable of modifying the distribution CD, they could simply dupe that CD, avoiding the installation counter. Or, if they also have a regular CD drive, which most systems equipped with CD burners do have, simply install from the regular CD.

 

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Sjon Svenson [mailto:sjon@svenson.com]
Sent: Saturday, December 18, 1999 2:38 PM
To: Robert Thompson
Subject: End of the World Dinner Party

Bob,

I notice there are a lot of writers among the invited. But no musicians?

I would add Verdi, and Tchaikovsky, or Borodin.

Good point. My first choice would clearly be Johann Sebastian Bach. The second choice would be harder. Perhaps Verdi, but then Telemann, Beethoven, or Mozart would also be good choices.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Chuck Waggoner [waggoner at gis dot net]
Sent: Friday, December 24, 1999 5:12 PM
To: 'Robert Bruce Thompson'
Subject: RE: More Cookies

Hmmm. I wonder if that's a difference in OS'es? I'm still Win 98. I deleted a whole bunch of cookies in the \profile\cookies folder and even rebooted--they're still there in the \profile\temp internet folder. I've GOT to move over to NT.

Yes, you really should, although it's still unclear to me whether NT4 or W2K is a better choice. I see only three real advantages to W2K Professional over Windows NT Workstation 4: Device Manager, Plug-'N-Play, and USB. Pournelle likes having Device Manager in NT5. I don't mind that it's there, but I don't think it's a major advantage, particularly for people who seldom change hardware. And the truth is, I've never had much problem getting hardware configured on NT. It just works. Well, except PnP ISA cards, and once you know the trick, they're easy to install as well. All of my hardware configuration problems have occurred on Win9X boxes, with their supposed advantage of Device Manager and PnP. PnP ain't, so I don't regard its presence in NT5 as much real advantage. The only thing I think even remotely makes NT5 a worthwhile upgrade is USB support. And I recall the rumor that Microsoft has had USB support available for NT4 for a couple of years but hasn't released it because they wanted to force people to upgrade to NT5. I find that rumor credible, because I can't see any other reason to upgrade an in-place NT4 installation.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Chuck Waggoner [waggoner at gis dot net]
Sent: Friday, December 24, 1999 6:22 PM
To: webmaster@ttgnet.com
Subject: Fan-atics

From my television background, I could tell you stories that would make your hair stand on end. One involved my TV news producing and directing days working with a certain woman news anchor who now hosts a network news magazine with the word "line" in it. Thank God she emerged unharmed from a situation in the parking lot behind the station after the evening news one night, but there was a security guard in place and on duty from the next day forward.

Also from that experience onwards, my name has never appeared in the phone book the same way as it does on screen, as a safety precaution. Unfortunately, not everyone out there is a lucid, normal person--this is especially true in the case of TV viewers. There's no one I worked with who didn't have the living daylights scared out of them when the movie "Taxi Driver" came out; almost every one of us--at one time or another--had dealt with someone out there in TVland who had a personality type like the DeNiro character. After that movie, I stopped seeing people I didn't know and who had no appointment, but just showed up wanting to see me to "discuss" something.

Because of the crazy calls we often got, we used to joke about the need to have a law passed that would prohibit people from owning and operating both a television and a telephone at the same time. But it was really no joke. Yikes, it makes my skin crawl just thinking about the phone calls alone!

When I worked in Chicago, one of the popular talk radio stations built "showcase" studios on Michigan Avenue where you could look in from the street while they were on the air. Several of their hosts refused to work in them.

And I don't blame them one bit! When the "Today" show built the studios they now broadcast from, they, too, had a window built so people could look in. It used bullet-proof glass. But that didn't help the poor Floor Manager assigned to do the outdoor weather segments. Just a couple months after they began broadcasting from that studio, as he was preparing for the outdoor segment, he was shot and killed by a loony who had driven to New York, specifically to shoot someone on the program, thinking he could do it through the window, which they frequently showed on the air during the broadcast.

Certainly. I remember that not long after John Lennon was murdered, David Crosby was caught carrying a concealed weapon. At his arraignment, he pled "John Lennon" but they convicted him anyway. I think a lot of the danger lies with how well-known you are. Pournelle, for example, is much better-known than I am. Is he among the top 1,000 best-known people in the country? Probably not. The top 10,000? Perhaps. The top 100,000? Almost certainly. So he's probably wise to take precautions. I, on the other hand, am an order or two of magnitude less well-known than Pournelle, so I'm at much less risk. A lot of it has to do with what you're known for, as well. Being known as a TV personality is probably much more dangerous than being known as a science-fiction author, which in turn is probably much more dangerous than being known as a computer-book author. So I don't worry much.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Bo Leuf [mailto:bo@leuf.com]
Sent: Saturday, December 25, 1999 9:41 AM
To: Robert Bruce Thompson
Subject: cookies

With the recent postings about cookies, and my own thoughts about their possible use on specialized wiki sites, I got to pondering some more.

Cookies are very simple in principle -- especially as seen from the client (store and read, possibly delete), but varying complexity can be added at the whim of the website/server programmer. Thing is, the client hasn't a clue about how the cookie functionality is managed serverside.

For example, a very simple ID-tagging cookie on the client side can be linked to an extensive entry in a database on the server side. In this case, read-only on the client cookie won't matter squat since all the updating occurs in the server database. (Hmm, how does read- only affect a (session) deletion command? Block it I suspect.) You would think a read-only can't easily be circumvented, but I'm not so sure. Could Java enhancement change the flag? Anyway, as you point out, in most cases a read-only blocks server actions, this just generates a new cookie as if the old one didn't exist.

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

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Paul Robichaux [mailto:paul@robichaux.net]
Sent: Sunday, December 26, 1999 8:13 AM
To: Bob Thompson
Subject: A W2K Christmas

I'm up visiting my folks in Toledo. Last time I was here, I strung a bunch of cat-5 cable to set up a small home LAN. This time it was cable modem time, so we called the fine folks at Buckeye Cable. Their installer arrived on time, did an efficient and neat installation, and vanished, leaving us with a 512Kbps connection that's worked flawlessly since. But that's not what I'm writing about :)

I'd brought a W2K Pro RTM CD with me, just in case my dad wanted to put it on his machine. He did, so I handed him the CD and left him to do it. The install went flawlessly, and it recognized all of the funky hardware in his old P-200: two SCSI CDs, a parallel Zip, and so on (although W2K setup reported that some devices didn't have current drivers.) After that, all he had to do was reinstall Outlook 2K, as recommended by W2K setup, and he was in business-- until he tried to use Adaptec Easy-CD.

Adaptec maintains a page of instructions for what to do when you install ECD on a W2K machine-- but it's not linked anywhere that I can find on their web site. I ran ECD and it complained about not having wnaspi32.dll-- even though it was plainly present in system32. "OK," I figured. "It can't find it because the original install was done under 98 and there's a different NT version". Accordingly, I reinstalled it-- BIG mistake, since that yielded a BSOD on reboot.

A little AltaVista searching turned up http://webcheckup.adaptec.com/ecdc-w2k/, which contains instructions on how to set up ECD for W2K. After downloading the necessary patch, which must be run before you install ECD, I booted into safe mode, ran the patch, reinstalled ECD, downloaded and installed the ECD 3.5c update, and ran it again-- only to get the same wnaspi32.dll error.

Since I'm lazy, I'm just going to upgrade the machine to EasyCD 4.0, which is claimed to work flawlessly with W2K. Once it gets here and I get to try it, I'll let you know how it turns out, but a big "bah humbug" to Adaptec for not including their how-to page on their site anywhere-- it would have saved me some troubleshooting time if I had seen it when I checked their site.

Hope you had a nice holiday. My favorite present was a spiffy new Glock 26 compact 9mm, so I'm off to find a range today or tomorrow and break it in.

Cheers,
-Paul
--
Paul Robichaux, MCSE | paul@robichaux.net | <http://www.robichaux.net
Robichaux & Associates: programming, writing, teaching, consulting 
See http://www.exchangefaq.org for all your Exchange questions!

I've not tried to run Adaptec Easy CD or DirectCD under W2K. Actually, I don't have Easy CD 4, and the latest W2K they sent me was RC2, so I didn't even bother to try. Pournelle tells me that Easy CD 3.5 on W2K is hopeless, so I took his word for it.

We did have a good holiday, thanks. Hope you did, too. It sounds like it. Have fun with the Glock. I'm still old-fashioned. My carry piece is a steel-frame Colt Commander in .45 ACP. As Jeff Cooper says, if you think you need more than a 7-round magazine and one up the pipe, you have other problems. That said, I will admit that I sometimes carry a Milt Sparks' Six-Pack on the back of my belt. It's just so nicely balanced. (6 X 7) + 7 + 1 = a full box.

 


 

 

 

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Tuesday, 28 December 1999

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We took Kerry to the vet yesterday afternoon. He's fine. Or as fine as a 12-year old dog with severe hip dysplasia can be. As it turned out, he had tape worms, which are easily treatable, and a subcutaneous infection near his tail head, which we'll treat with antibiotics. Dr. Craig also told us about a new experimental treatment for his joint problems. It requires that Kerry get seven injections spaced four days apart. Dr. Craig says the treatment has about a 70% success rate, and that the improvements are sometimes miraculous. He says the FDA has designated the treatment agent as a "disease modifying drug". Apparently, it thickens the fluid in the bursa, preventing the bones from grinding against each other. We have high hopes. 

That was the second of three alternative treatments he mentioned. The first was 20 mg of prednisone every other day. We've been treating Kerry with prednisone on and off for years, both for his joint problems and his severe allergies. We understand the dangers, but we know he tolerates it well. We asked Dr. Craig what he'd do if Kerry were his dog, and he suggested we commence both treatments at the same time and keep treating Kerry with prednisone routinely, so that's what we're doing. 

Border Collies ordinarily live to 12 or 14 years. With all the medical problems Kerry has had, it's a miracle he's made it to twelve. Although the prednisone may shorten his life, at least he may be able to live the remainder of it in less pain. Kerry weighed 71 pounds yesterday, which is about 20 pounds overweight for his size. That excess weight contributes to his joint problems, but we don't have the heart to put him on a starvation diet to get the weight off. We've tried various diet dog foods, but the problem is that he gets no exercise because of the hip dysplasia. Barbara and I discussed it, and we concluded that we'd rather have him fat and happy for a shorter time than thinner and miserable for a little while longer.

I spent yesterday cleaning up, virtually and physically. To begin, I decided that it would be a good idea to check my computers and software for Y2K compliance. I visited the Microsoft Y2K web site, where I downloaded the Microsoft Year 2000 Product Analyzer, Version 2.0, Administrators' Version. Presumably V 1.0 had Y2K bugs. Although the Administrators' Version claims to run on Windows NT Server 4, I ran it on Windows NT Workstation 4.0 without problems. It checks all Microsoft software for Y2K compliance and generates a comprehensive report, including links to any updates or patches your system may require. In general, all of my systems are compliant with minor exceptions. That's only the Microsoft software, of course. As far as the other stuff, my cunning plan is to wait and see what happens.

After I finished scanning all our systems for Y2K problems, Barbara announced that it was time for my annual office cleaning. We carried piles of stuff out of there, including such items as a bunch of 8" floppy diskettes. I still have the 8" floppy diskette drive, too, although finding a DEC PDP-8 to run it in might prove difficult. As of now, the office doesn't look a whole lot better than it did, but we've removed about a dumpster's worth of obsolete hardware and other garbage. The closet is, for the first time in years, nearly empty. I guess I won't really miss those 10 MB hard drives, full-height 360 KB floppy drives, and Hercules Graphics Cards, but throwing them in the trash was kind of like losing old friends. It was interesting putting the 10 MB tape drive next to the 24 GB tape drive and realizing that I'd need 2,400 tapes or so to back up the same amount of data on the old tape drive.

 


 

 

 

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Wednesday, 29 December 1999

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Barbara is off to the gym and then the grocery store, where she'll pick up milk, bread, Coca-Cola, and a few other last-minute items. We'll top off the fuel in our trucks and jerry cans this afternoon, but that's about all we're really doing to prepare for Y2K. We'll have the television on starting early Friday morning our time, of course, to see what happens as Y2K strikes New Zealand, Australia, and Japan, and then rolls onward. 

I don't expect much to happen in the industrialized nations, but I am concerned about what will happen in the the poor nations in southwest Asia and Africa. The very poorest nations, of course, are unlikely to be affected much, simply because they are so primitive. If you don't have electricity or plumbing or computers to begin with, Y2K isn't likely to change things much. It's the nations that are beginning to industrialize that are likely to be hit badly. They're caught in the worst of both worlds because they are at least partially dependent on technology but do not have the resources to track down and fix Y2K problems.

A friend yesterday expressed concern about Y2K terrorism. I don't think that's likely to be widespread, although I'm sure there will be some bombs and other outrages. After all, if you're a terrorist, you do what you do to gain attention. Wouldn't you rather do it on a slow news day? That said, no one we know is going out to celebrate the new year. The last two or three years, we've gone out for dinner to the same restaurant with a group of a dozen or so friends of friends and then gathered at the home of one of them. We're not doing that this year, and neither are they. This will be a very odd New Year's Eve.

We'll also be following events on the Internet, simply because I don't trust the network news to report accurately. Unless something prevents me from doing so, I'll post an update shortly after midnight local time here. I suspect many others will do the same. I really don't expect anything much to happen here, but I just don't know. Anyone who says he does know is lying.

 


 

 

 

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Thursday, 30 December 1999

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According to our morning paper, stores have not seen any Y2K rush, here or elsewhere in the state. Apparently, flashlights are difficult to come by, but other emergency supplies are sitting in piles at the stores. Lowe's and Home Depot have piles of un-bought generators, banks have piles of extra money, and grocery stores piles of extra canned goods, all brought in in the expectation of last-minute demand that has yet to materialize. That's through yesterday, of course, and the situation may well change today and tomorrow as people start to worry. My guess is that a lot of people will be watching as Y2K rolls across New Zealand at 0600 our time, followed shortly thereafter by Australia and Japan. If nothing really bad happens there, most people will just stay home. If there are widespread problems, I expect there will be a last minute scramble to stock up.

Our government, with the notable exception of one very pessimistic Navy report, says there's nothing to worry about. I think the news organizations missed an opportunity here. They should have had hidden cameras watching some of the government's Y2K gurus to see if they followed their own advice or went out and stocked up. Of course, they all probably have reserved seats for themselves and their families at government Doomsday shelters. 

In the words of Vegetius Flavius Maximus, who was a mediocre general but turned a nice phrase:

Qui desiderat pacem, bellum praeparat 

which roughly translates as "(those of you) who want peace, prepare for war". Which is pretty good advice in general. I've spoken with a few people who are not only not making any Y2K preparations, but seem to take pride in their contrarian stance. When I suggested to one guy that he at least fill his gas tank before the weekend, he told me that he wouldn't bother doing that because he could always do it afterwards. Surely taking such no-cost precautions as topping off your gas tank or filling your bathtub with water is worthwhile even if you're convinced nothing bad is likely to happen. I think such people fear looking stupid, even if only to themselves. I for one sincerely hope that nothing at all happens, but if that turns out to be the case I won't feel the slightest bit embarrassed for having taken some precautions.

I have a Plextor PlexWriter 8/4/32 CD-RW drive on the way, which I'm hoping will arrive late this week or early next. Plextor CD-ROM drives and burners, of course, are widely acknowledged to be the Rolls-Royce of optical drives. Plextor drives are built like tanks, and outperform every other drive I've used. What's significant about this drive is that it's the first ATAPI model that Plextor has shipped. In the past, if you wanted Plextor, you had to use SCSI. That effectively ruled out using a Plextor drive in the 99+% of systems that do not have SCSI installed.

In testing various CD burners for my books, I concluded that the best ATAPI burners are usable, but are neither as robust nor as reliable as SCSI models. I've never, for example, burned a coaster in my Plextor 8/2/20, whereas I still ruin blanks occasionally in my Smart & Friendly SAF798. That's probably due to two factors. First, of course, IDE has very real technical drawbacks relative to SCSI. Probably just as important, however, is that most IDE burners are mass-market items, for which manufacturing cost and selling price are key factors. Accordingly, most IDE burners are not as well-built as SCSI burners. 

I have little doubt that the construction quality of the Plextor IDE burner will be up to Plextor's usual standards, and I'm sure that it will sell for somewhat more than mass-market IDE burners. What will be interesting to learn is how well the Plextor drive deals with the inherent limitations of ATAPI. When I spoke to Plextor representatives a year or so ago, I asked them why they didn't make an ATAPI model. They told me then that they had not yet been able to design a drive that worked to their satisfaction within ATAPI limitations, but that they wouldn't rule out making an ATAPI drive if they could overcome those limitations. I suspect they have succeeded, but as usual I plan to find out for myself.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Alan Donders [alan_donders at hotmail dot com]
Sent: Wednesday, December 29, 1999 2:37 PM
To: webmaster@ttgnet.com
Subject: Y2K Info

Regarding your Y2K comment:

"We'll also be following events on the Internet, simply because I don't trust the network news to report accurately."

I was wondering what your preferred Internet sources are/will be.

Mostly people I know and trust. I remember Robert Heinlein saying that on nine separate occasions he'd actually been present at an event that was subsequently described in Time magazine. On none of those occasions did what Time reported correspond to what he observed. Another example: several years ago, my friend David Silvis returned from Chile, where he'd gone to medical school and subsequently practiced medicine for years. At the time, the network newscasts were reporting that widespread rioting had been going on in Chile for a week or more. David said that only a couple of days previously he'd been at the exact locations the newscasts were talking about, and there was nothing going on at all. While he was visiting us, we happened to have the network news turned on when they ran a report on the supposed rioting in Chile, complete with footage of cars turned over and burning, rioters fighting pitched battles with the police, and so on. David started yelling and pointing at the screen. We couldn't figure out what he was so excited about. He finally explained that the license plates visible on all the cars were a color that hadn't been used for about 12 years. The network news was apparently running archival footage of events that had occurred a decade or more in the past and misrepresenting that footage as showing events happening as we watched. I've had enough similar experiences, personally and those described to me by friends, that I no longer have any trust whatsoever in television news, news magazines, or newspapers.

I correspond regularly with people from around the world. If the network news tells me that everything is fine in Hong Kong, for example, I won't give that any credence. On the other hand, if someone I know emails me from Hong Kong to say that everything there is fine, I'll believe him. Or if Chris Ward-Johnson posts a site update from Southern France to tell me that all is well there.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Keith Menzies [mailto:kj@schoolofhope.org]
Sent: Wednesday, December 29, 1999 9:27 PM
To: webmaster@ttgnet.com
Subject: pdd files

I have 100 pdd files courtesy of Photoshopdeluxe Home Ed. 3.0. Is there anyway of getting thumbnails of each without having to rename and export each individual file?

Thanks

Keith: kj@schoolofhope.org

Sorry, I don't use that product, nor do I have occasion to generate thumbnails in batches. I use FrontPage to generate thumbnails for this page, and it works well. Perhaps one of my readers can email you directly with a solution.

 


 

 

 

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Friday, 31 December 1999

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We were up at 0600 and watching events in New Zealand. Not that we planned to be up, mind you, but Malcolm decided it was time to wake up and go out. So far, there seem to be relatively few problems, or, if there are, they aren't being reported. The real crunch comes at 0000 GMT, of course, because many key systems worldwide use GMT, including air traffic control. That'll come early evening our time, so we'll be keeping an eye on things then.

Barbara is doing her standard post-holiday cleanup, moving mountains of trash to the curb, including that poor tree she paid to have killed earlier this month. I hauled Kerry to the vet for an 0900 appointment to get his second of seven shots to treat his hip problem. The vets were covered up today, and taking only emergencies unless you had an appointment.

I see more reports that there is no last minute panic buying going on, but that's not what my friend John Mikol told me last night. His wife stopped by the grocery store yesterday evening to do her regular weekly shopping. John says that Page reported that the store was very crowded and that the shelves were emptying quickly. On the way to to the vet and back, it seemed that the roads were very lightly trafficked, even less so than I'd expect for New Year's Eve. It seems that most people are choosing to stay at home. Those few that aren't are apparently at the grocery stores.

Barbara and I agreed early on that we'd treat this more or less like an approaching winter storm. Stay at home, relax, and wait to see what happens. I guess I'm still enough of a kid that I don't really mind those infrequent times when we have to haul out the sleeping bags and kerosene lanterns and camp out in the house. If that should happen tonight, it might even be fun. For a day or so anyway.

As far as I can tell, all of our main systems are now Y2K compliant, with the possible exception of some minor applications and utilities that we haven't tested. I'm running a full network backup right now on the Tecmar 3900 DDS3 tape drive on kiwi, and will do the same this afternoon on the Tecmar NS20 tape drive on theodore. Both backups are being made to new tapes labeled "Archive - 991231". 

The cell phones are on the chargers, and I'm getting ready to charge up all my NiMH batteries. We'll fill the bathtub just in case, but that'll be about it for our last minute preparations. My guess is that we'll wake up tomorrow morning with everything more or less normal, in which case I'll de-prepare by draining the bathtub.

FedEx just showed up with the Plextor PlexWriter 8/4/32 ATAPI CD burner, so I'm sure I'll be playing with that this weekend. And now Barbara tells me it's time to finish cleaning up my office. After that, laundry, cleaning house, etc. Then I think I'll collapse for my last nap of the year. No more posts until next year, which will be AC1h for you programmers out there.

 


 

 

 

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Saturday, 1 January 2000

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Happy AC1h

I posted the above last night, and have already received messages pointing out that AC1h translates to 2753 decimal. Yes, yes, of course. I am a traditionalist. My calendar begins with the founding of Rome in 753 BCE.

No Y2M (thanks, Steve) problems here. All computers turned over properly and all software seems to be working fine. One exception. My friend John Mikol, who also uses a BigmOuth voice processing card to provide voicemail and automated attendant functions on his Panasonic phone system, called to tell me that the BigmOuth software displays the date this morning as January 1, 100. It's only a display glitch, though, and doesn't affect the program functioning. If he hadn't told me, I'd never have known. The PC that runs BigmOuth here has a mono display adapter in it. It hasn't been hooked up to a monitor in at least two or three years.

Barbara decided to start keeping a daily journal page. Well, not daily, really. More like what Tucker and Wallbridge do--updates whenever they bloody well feel like it. Actually, she may end up doing the same thing as Chris Ward-Johnson (aka Dr. Keyboard): write journal entries once a week or so, and then go back and post them retroactively so he can pretend he keeps a daily journal. I shouldn't have said that. Chris has actually been very good lately about posting every day. 

Barbara is starting the journal today, so I decided it made sense to run a weekly page starting 1/1/00, which corresponds nicely with the weeks of the year. I actually thought about killing this page as of yesterday and starting a new weekly page with 1/1/00 for myself. But that seemed too much like work, so I'll keep on with what I have.

Enough for now. Barbara needs help dragging the corpse of that tree she had killed out to the curb. I'll get this started publishing now. That'll take a while, because I changed the bottom shared border to include 2000 in the copyright notice. That means that every single page on this site has been changed and will have to be uploaded. Publishing this will therefore probably take two hours or more.

 


 

 

 

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Sunday, 2 January 2000

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I spent some time yesterday running web stats. Each week, I run weekly stats for my own site and for Jerry Pournelle's. The stats are always depressingly similar: I get the same number of page reads for the week that Jerry averages for each day. The first of each month, I run stats for the preceding month. Yesterday for the first time, I ran stats for the year. In my case, the year started in March, when I signed up with pair Networks. In Jerry's case, the year started in August, when he moved his site to pair.

I figured I might have to make some changes in how I run the stats, and I was right. I use Analog to analyze the stats. Weekly reports for my site usually take about 15 minutes to run, and Jerry's take perhaps two hours. Monthly runs take a couple hours for my site, and perhaps 12 hours for Jerry's. Nearly all the time is occupied doing DNS lookups to resolve the IP numbers included in the raw log files to domain and host names. I figured that attempting to run a yearly report with DNS lookups would take ridiculously long, and I was right. I started my own yearly report with DNS resolution running yesterday morning, and it's still running now, with no sign of finishing. There's no way I'll try to run Jerry's yearly report. It would take weeks to finish. Fortunately, Analog allows you turn off DNS resolution. Running my own yearly report with DNS resolution off took 27 seconds. Running Jerry's yearly report with DNS resolution off took 4:41.

I also switched recently from Analog 3.11 to Analog 4.01. One new feature I noticed right away is that 4.01 summarizes operating system usage. Here are the top ten operating systems used to access my site in 1999:

  1. Windows (82.3%)
    1. Windows 98 (28.7%)
    2. Windows NT (28.4%)
    3. Windows 95 (23.8%)
    4. Unknown Windows (0.6%)
    5. Windows 16-bit (0.4%)
    6. Windows 3.1 (0.3%)
    7. Windows 32-bit (0.1%)
    8. Windows CE (0.0%+)
  2. OS unknown (10.3%)
  3. Unix (3.7%)
    1. Linux (3.1%)
    2. SunOS (0.4%)
    3. Other Unix (0.2%)
  4. Macintosh (2.2%)
  5. WebTV (0.3%)
  6. OS/2 (0.3%)
  7. BeOS (0.2%)
  8. Amiga (0.0%+)
  9. RISC OS (0.0%+)
  10. VMS (0.0%+)

And the top web browsers:

  1. Microsoft Internet Explorer (56.74%)
  2. Netscape Navigator (30.44%)
  3. Netscape (compatible) (2.29%)
  4. Opera (1.28%)
  5. Others (9.25%)

The "other" category included 195 distinct browsers. Among the most used of those were Microsoft FrontPage (my own updates), Lynx, and the various spiders used by the search indices like AltaVista, Northern Light, and so on. There were, of course, many bogus browser names, which are returned by folks who use various means to spoof the server to preserve their privacy. Among those, my favorite was "Space Bison". I wonder who uses that.

Interesting developments on the horizon for JPEG. The JPEG2000 standard isn't here yet, but soon will be. Rather than depending on Fast Fourier Transforms, as current JPEG compression does, JPEG2000 uses wavelet transforms. The upshot is that JPEG2000 will be able to achieve up to 200:1 compression ratios with very little loss of quality. For an example, see this web site, which shows a 3 MB original image compressed to 19 KB with both standard JPEG and JPEG2000. The standard JPEG is a posterized, cartoonish mess. The 19 KB JPEG2000 is nearly indistinguishable from the 3 MB original.

That has some pretty significant implications, not least of which are that digital cameras will be able to record very high resolution images and store many of them on a standard memory card. Also, the implications for web sites of being able to use very high resolution images that transfer quickly even on a dial-up connection are inestimable. People laughed at Intel for marketing the Pentium III, with its SSE enhancements, as an "Internet" processor, but Intel may have the last laugh. High-resolution, full-screen, full-motion video over a dial-up line? It may be possible, once this technology is extended to MPEG.

* * * * *

From: Paul Barker [mailto:pawl@brunnet.net]
Sent: Saturday, January 01, 2000 6:36 PM
To: topics@ttgnet.com
Subject: Backing up to a CD-R

My Cd-RW isn't supported by Seagate's backup exec does anyone know of software that will backup to CD-RW's? I want to backup the entire drive.

There are actually two issues here. First, the software you use to provide UDF support must be usable from within any application. That's true of Adaptec's DirectCD, but not of some other products. Jerry Pournelle has noted, for example, that the software supplied for that purpose with the Sony CD-RW drives is accessible only from within the Sony application. Second, your backup software must give you the option to write to disk volumes rather than just tape drives. I use Arcada/Seagate/Veritas BackupExec, but I've never tried to make it back up to a disk volume. Assuming that your UDF software is accessible by all applications, you should be able to use the Windows backup applet to backup to your CD-RW drive.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: ltdtoo [mailto:ltdtoo@twcny.rr.com]
Sent: Saturday, January 01, 2000 8:20 PM
To: webmaster@ttgnet.com
Subject: help!!!

Robert, I have just been on your website.I have two very important questions.I would really appreciate it if you could answer the following!!!: ques.#1. What effects do earthquakes have on the enviroment? ques.#2. What would happen if a earthquake hit new york city?What would happen to stores buildings ect.? Please e-mail me at ltdtoo@twcny.rr.com. Thank you for your time and patients!!! Sincerely,Marie!!!

#1 depends on where an earthquake occurs and its severity. Millions of small tremors occur every year and aren't even noticeable without instruments. Conversely, a major earthquake can change the course of rivers, create or destroy lakes, raise new islands, sink existing islands, and so on.

#2 again depends on the severity. New York City is not considered to be at major risk for severe earthquakes, so buildings are not constructed with that in mind. If a really major earthquake, say 8.0 or higher, hit New York City, there would be widespread devastation, including the collapse of most or all of the skyscrapers. That's not likely to happen, though.

 


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