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Daynotes Journal

Week of 6 March 2000

Friday, 05 July 2002 08:28

A (mostly) daily journal of the trials, tribulations, and random observations of Robert Bruce Thompson, a writer of computer books.


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Monday, 6 March 2000

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About 13 hours yesterday, 7:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m., less a couple of short breaks to eat and relax briefly. I did get Chapter 1, Fundamentals, finished and off to my editor, finally. Now all that remains to be finished is Chapter 9, Sound Cards and Audio Components, and I'll be at 100% completion of the first draft. I've already done quite a bit of work on it, but getting it complete by Friday, or even the following Monday, is going to require a major push.

Of course, even once that's over, the book isn't finished. I have to do some serious re-write on some of the chapters I completed earlier, and then there's tech review to get through. But I can at least begin to see the train at the end of the tunnel.

I don't know what Word 97 has done to itself. Until yesterday, it displayed embedded URLs as normal highlighted text. Now it's started displaying them in the form { HYPERLINK http://www.theregister.co.uk/000305-000001.html }. I can change the display back to normal by selecting the link (or the entire document for multiple links) and choosing Toggle Field Codes. But why is it doing this to me? I searched help and couldn't find an explanation. Perhaps it has something to do with my template. Never mind. I found it. All I had to do was press Alt-F9 to toggle the display back from Field Codes to text.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Thomas [mailto:thomas@tberg.net]
Sent: Saturday, March 04, 2000 11:38 PM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: About FastTrak IDE RAID

I have read Your test of FastTrak RAID and have a question i haven't seen answered anywhere. I understand that you can connect 4 drives to the card, but is it 4 controllers also ? I mean, if I use 4 drives will the config be 2 master + 2 slaves, or.. ? And in that case, will it suffer from the same performancehit as the ordinary IDE-interface ?

If not in the latter case, what kind of performance (sustained transfer rate) can I suspect ? Will it be the twice as much as Your results with 2 drives ? (Or about at least..)

As i'm in the situation to buy a FastTrak-card, would Your answer be a great help for me.

TIA

Thomas Berg
--------------------------
Mundus Vult Decipi

The Promise FastTrak is a dual-channel IDE controller, with the standard Master/Slave arrangement on each of the two channels. One of the limitations of the ATA specification, as you point out, is that only one device per channel can have control of that channel at any one time. I did not specifically test throughput with two devices on one channel, on the assumption that it would have led to significant throughput degradation. Now that you mention it, I should probably do so.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Gary M. Berg [mailto:Gary_Berg@bunkeberg.com]
Sent: Sunday, March 05, 2000 10:19 PM
To: webmaster@ttgnet.com
Subject: Microsoft Internet Keyboard

Bob,

I saw you mention this keyboard on your web site on Friday. I was curious as to what you thought of it (I assume you must like it a fair bit as you've chosen to use it). A couple of months ago I was checking out keyboards, thinking of buying a replacement, and tried using Deja News to look up information on it. I didn't find much other than a couple of gamers complaining about key roll-over or something like that while playing some game which used the keyboard heavily. I think this was numeric pad keys, which always complicate life a bit on keyboards.

So anyway, how's the touch and how invasive is the software to drive it?

I use the Microsoft Internet Keyboard only occasionally, but I like the feel of it. There's also an enhanced model, the Internet Keyboard Pro, that adds many more dedicated buttons. Barbara has been using the original Internet Keyboard full-time and loves it. I'll be shifting her over to the Internet Keyboard Pro when I get a spare moment. I prefer the ergonomic models. I've used the Natural Keyboard for more than a year, and love it. I recently started using the Natural Keyboard Pro (which has all the extra buttons) on my main workstation, and I actually prefer the feel of it to the original Natural Keyboard. The driver software is the same for the Internet Keyboard and both of the Pro models. It's perfectly stable as far as I can see (although I've used it only under NT) and is not at all invasive.

 


 

 

 

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Tuesday, 7 March 2000

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I usually don't have any problem when I sit down to update this page. I just start writing about whatever I happen to be thinking about at the moment. But lately that's changed. I get up, start writing, take occasional breaks for food, write some more, perhaps read a book in the evening, go to bed, get up and start the whole thing again. So about all that comes to mind to write here is "I wrote some more yesterday." That gets boring fast. In the past if I was stuck for something to write about, I could always go to the mail bag. But I'm not getting much mail lately. That's at my own request, but it does remove a safety net. Now I have to think about things to write about all on my own.

I'd actually have more to write about if I had more time. The eval hardware and software is stacking up around here, but I simply don't have time to play with it until I get this book finished. Of course, once this book is finished, I have to turn around and start another one immediately. As Pournelle says, it's a great life if you don't weaken.

 


 

 

 

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Wednesday, 8 March 2000

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Exciting times yesterday. Barbara took Duncan and Malcolm out to Rebecca Shouse's farm, both so that they could do a little running and to give me some peace and quiet. She returned about 4:45 p.m. with Duncan but without Malcolm. Turns out that Malcolm had gashed his leg while running around. Barbara took him to our vet, who was going to sedate him and put in some stitches. The vet said to leave him and come back in an hour, so that's what we did. Well, less than an hour, actually. We figured he might need to see a friendly face, or at least hear a friendly voice. So we went back a bit early to pick him up and ended up waiting fifteen minutes or so.

malcolm-radar2.jpg (32938 bytes)

Malcolm now sports his very own satellite dish. He stares at us, and I know what he's thinking. "By now, even a human should have noticed this thing I have stuck on my head and done something about it." He really wants it off. Barbara and I didn't get much sleep last night. She's off to the grocery store and on other errands. I'm so whacked I'm going to have a hard time getting much written today, but I have to try. Perhaps a nap later.

Tom Syroid mentioned in his Monday journal entry that he'd gotten a Plustek scanner that was causing crashes under Windows 2000, and that he was considering taking it back and getting a Umax or HP scanner instead. I mailed Tom as soon as I read that and suggested that getting rid of the Plustek would be a very good idea. I have a useless Plustek scanner here. They're awful about updating drivers.

Then Bob Walder mentioned in his journal yesterday that even big names like HP sometimes don't provide driver updates. He'd bought an HP 6200 scanner last Christmas, and said that HP had no Windows 2000 driver for it and no apparent plans to provide one. I bought an HP 6200C scanner last fall, so I was particularly concerned. I hit the HP web site, where I found this page, which seems to indicate that HP does in fact provide W2K drivers for the 6200C scanner.

While I was there, I noticed that HP has a very nice feature--they'll notify you via email when new drivers and utilities are released. That sounded good, especially when I realized I hadn't checked for new drivers since I bought the scanner, and there have been several updates posted since that time for the 6200C running under Windows 2000, NT4, 98, and 95. 

So I decided to sign up. I was expecting simply to be given the opportunity to enter my email address, but instead HP has a sign-up process, presumably to prevent people from entering other people's email addresses. Oddly enough, I trust HP, although not enough to provide my real email address--I used [hp at ttgnet dawt com] instead. (In retrospect, I went back and changed that email address from a live link to make sure an address sucking program doesn't grab it. It'll be interesting to see whether or not I start getting spam to that address. I also wonder when the address grabbers are going to get smart enough to parse pages and convert the string "<something> at <something> dot <TLD>" to a real address.)

When I clicked the icon to begin signing up, nothing happened. Aha. It required JavaScript be enabled. So I added that URL to my Trusted Sites group in IE, which I have defined to allow JavaScript, persistent cookies, and so on. The sign-up process went without incident until the final step, when I clicked the confirmation button. Instead of recording my information and signing me up, the script went into an endless loop between trying to access 192.151.11.160 and 192.151.52.195. After literally five or ten minutes of that, I killed the whole process. 

I have no idea whether it registered me or not. I tried to go in later to sign up for update notices using the account information I'd just entered, but I never got to the point where it prompted me for my account name and password. As soon as I clicked on the icon to sign up for email updates, it went into la-la land, looping back and forth between those two IP address. Oh, well.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Chuck Waggoner [waggoner at gis dot net]
Sent: Tuesday, March 07, 2000 4:37 PM
To: 'Robert Bruce Thompson'
Subject: MP3

A most interesting article in NY Times today regarding a method of exchanging MP3 music without posting to web sites. Method, developed by yet another college dropout from yet another Boston university, involves keeping a library of titles on a server compiled from member's computers, then connecting members directly to each other's computers where files are then downloaded across an ICQ-like connection.

If this stands, it is surely going to impact DVD titles, too. And ultimately, a reduction of the obscene compensation levels entertainment stars receive.

I've read about Napster before, but this was an interesting article. I note that, for all the bitching the music industry has been doing about the Internet killing their business, their sales revenues were up 6% last year, mostly on the basis of increased prices rather than higher volume. 

I think you might be surprised by just how little most of the content providers actually make. I've been told, and I have no reason not to believe it, that many big-name acts must sell 500,000 copies of an album before they actually start making money on it. The music industry itself is the rat hole that absorbs all the money. The artists, by and large, don't make all that much. Certainly the very biggest names are millionaires, as they should be, but even well-known mid-list names aren't exactly coining money.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: J.H. Ricketson [mailto:culam@micron.net]
Sent: Tuesday, March 07, 2000 11:09 PM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: What to Write?

Dear Bob,

Just finished your rather plaintive 03.07 entry. I wish I could sympathize, or even empathize, but I have exactly the opposite problem. If writer's block can be described as intellectual constipation, I seem to be experiencing intellectual diarrhea. All the bits, pieces, and snippets that have been squirreled away in the banks of my meat memory are now clamoring for expression. I hope that I can make some of it interesting. Publication (at your behest,so I foist some of the responsibility off on you!.<BG>) is progressing well. I am nearing the point of going public.

I just finished 6 pages of an essay on Build or Buy Your PC? When I put XXX on it, the main thing that hit me was that I had experienced a very small part of the exertions and grief that you professionals endure 24/7 when facing a deadline. I am impressed to the point of awe - and at my age I'm not easily impressed. I appreciate the fact that you find the time, and have the consideration for your readers, to put anything at all up on a daily basis.

Regards,

JHR
--
[J.H. Ricketson in San Pablo]
culam@micron.net

Thanks for the kind words. Actually, although it sounds bizarre, many of us who write for a living also write to relax. That's the reason most of us keep these daily journal pages.

 


 

 

 

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Thursday, 9 March 2000

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I ended up taking most of yesterday off. After only a few hours sleep, it's very hard to create anything. I tried for a while in the morning, and then I noticed that my fingers were aching. At age 46, I suppose that may be incipient arthritis, but I've been spending entirely too long at the keyboard lately. This morning, they don't seem to ache, so perhaps the day off helped. I've not had that problem before, but neither have I ever done stints of 12-hour days on end at the keyboard.

Malcolm appears to be doing fine, although he really hates his radar dish. I talked to our vet, Sue Stephens, who said to keep it on full time for at least three days. After that, we can take it off when we're watching him and put it on over night for another few days. Barbara has been taking it off briefly to give him a break, replacing it with his snout protector (what we call his muzzle so as not to offend him). She also has some truly evil tasting stuff that she can spray on it later on to keep him from gnawing on the stitches. Of course, this is a dog who regards dog crap, Vaseline Intensive Care Lotion, and Yuck! (a dog repellent product) as tasty treats, so who knows if it'll work.

Tonight we're meeting Barbara's parents for dinner at The Vineyard, a nice restaurant not far from here. It's their anniversary, and we'll probably take my mother along too. The only thing I don't like about the place is that it takes two hours to have dinner. If I'm going to be sitting in one place for two hours, I want to be reading or using the computer.

 


 

 

 

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Friday, 10 March 2000

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Head Nazi-ette and police state advocate Janet Reno, who brought you the government-sanctioned murders at Ruby Ridge and Waco, as well as the witch hunt against Microsoft, has now set her sights on the First Amendment. Apparently she's concerned that the law preventing federal agents from searching journalists' hard disks will now have broader application because the Internet makes everyone a publisher and everyone a journalist. Read all about it in this article that The Register published yesterday. In the mean time, should the feds ever show up to search my hard disks, I plan to cry "Journalist!", which I think I can make a fair case for.

I was excited to read in the newspaper yesterday morning that Steven King had released his latest novel only via electronic distribution. I was less excited when I learned that, at only 64 pages, it's not really a novel, but a novelette if anything, and that it sells for $2.50, a rather high price for 64 pages of electronic content. The reason became clear when I noticed that King is not distributing the product himself. It's available from his publisher and from various e-book content distributors. The whole point of electronic content is to remove publishers and distributors from the chain and return control to the content creators (i.e. authors), so this event is much less significant than I originally thought.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Chuck Waggoner [waggoner at gis dot net]
Sent: Thursday, March 09, 2000 11:45 AM
To: Robert Bruce Thompson (E-mail)
Subject: CDex

You'll probably be interested to know that the binary for BladeEnc has been yanked. Now, you have to compile it yourself from the source code which is still published.

However, I've found something that seems superior, which--from what I've read by open source people who build front-ends for both--is basically the same engine as BladeEnc, but is faster. It's called L.A.M.E. Comically, the L.A.M.E. site claims it's not an encoder, but an "analyzer" for educational purposes only. Education; yeah; that's the ticket: every time I rip music to listen, it's an educational analyzing event! Good thing it isn't commercial.

There's a FANTASTIC Windows front-end for this, called CDex, which includes the latest rev of L.A.M.E. [http://www.surf.to/cdex] The whole thing will rip to .wav or .mp3 and convert between them, including to the higher mp3 rates. If desired, CDex will also connect automatically to the CDDB database and identify all the CD tracks before ripping.

I imagine this one program might replace your two for ripping/converting. If this is what open source is about, it's going to kick butt (bum for New England and the British).

In the meantime, I've explored "The Napster Community" and it is a truly awesome Internet implementation.

By the way, your correspondent Soumya Shankar had one of the best tips I've run across regarding .mp3 files. In Start>Settings>FolderOptions>FileTypes, go to mp3, edit Play "Application used to perform this action" to: C:\WINDOWS\rundll32.exe C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM\amovie.ocx,RunDll /play /close

Make sure Play is set as default, and now, when you click on an .mp3 file, it will play with the same MS built-in player that .wav files use by default, then go away after playing. Save the opening of your regular .mp3 player for occasions when you what to play a stack of files. This is quick and clean.

Also, using this method is the only way I know to play more than one .mp3 (or .wav) file at once (on top of each other) depending on the speed of your system.

Thanks. I'll check it out.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Peter Thomas [mailto:thomaspj@home.com]
Sent: Thursday, March 09, 2000 7:36 PM
To: webmaster@ttgnet.com
Subject: OnStream

in case you're interested a new version of Echo is available at their web site

Thanks. When I first checked the site I didn't see a new version, because the top download page mentions Echo 3.0. When I clicked on the link to update Echo, however, it showed a page that mentioned Echo 3.1. I'm a bit busy now, but I will download the 3.1 update as well as the firmware update they recommend.

 


 

 

 

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Saturday, 11 March 2000

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As is my normal practice, I just processed the weekly, month-to-date, and year-to-date web stats for my own and Jerry Pournelle's sites this morning.  At present, I'm averaging about 744 page reads/day, while Jerry is averaging about 6,652, or roughly 9 times my traffic. I've been doing both our stats for the last year or so, and Jerry has consistently done about 7 times my traffic, so I'm losing ground as of late. Not surprising, given that I haven't had time to write as much here as I like. My own traffic is down about 30% from the peak earlier this year, when I was consistently averaging about 1,000 page reads/day.

Barbara rescued a Border Collie bitch from the animal shelter yesterday. She named her Tess. Tess had been found roped to a tree in a yard, and obviously had not been cared for or even fed. She stands about as tall as Malcolm, who is only 5.5 months old. Whereas he weighs 40 pounds, she probably doesn't weigh 25. Her ribs and spine protrude visibly, reminding me of those terrible pictures of people who survived the Nazi death camps. People who did such things to people were hanged. People who do such things to dogs should at least be horse-whipped.

With all of that, she's a sweet dog. Every time one of us walked by, she'd start wagging her tail. She doesn't understand toys, so obviously no one has ever played with her, but she loved the attention when we tried to play with her. She did growl once while she was eating when one of our dogs got too close, but I'd growl too if I'd been starved as she has been. We fed Tess numerous small meals, starting with a 50/50 mix of Duncan's food and Malcolm's, and gradually shifting to 100% puppy chow once we saw that she was tolerating it.. She needs the additional nutrition of puppy chow, but we were afraid to feed her too rich a diet until she'd had a chance to adapt to having food again. 

Barbara took her over to her friend Laura's house last night. Tess didn't want to leave us. Barbara pulled her Trooper out of the garage and parked up on the street. I coaxed Tess out into the front yard, but she immediately turned around, went back up on the porch, and stood at the front door waiting to be let in. We always feel badly when we have to move rescue dogs from one home to another. They just get used to one new set of people and dogs and then find themselves shifted willy-nilly to another. On the other hand, there may be a good side to that, because they learn that most people are kind, so perhaps it helps them trust a bit more. Also, all of the people we shift dogs among have Border Collie dogs already, and I'm sure the dogs talk to each other.

Laura will care for Tess until more permanent foster space becomes available. Once Tess gains a little weight, she should be easy to adopt out. She's sweet-natured, gentle, and loving. She'll make a very good pet for someone. I always wonder that dogs are so forgiving. If a person is treated very badly, he's not likely to forgive or forget it. If a dog is treated badly, it nearly always forgives the maltreatment. Perhaps they expect no better, and are pleasantly surprised when they encounter someone who doesn't mistreat them.

Well, back to work on the sound cards chapter. It's starting to come together, but needs a lot more work.

 


 

 

 

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Sunday, 12 March 2000

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Political Correctness gone mad. A 48 year old woman in Oberlin, Ohio has been arrested and charged with child pornography offenses. Her crime? She takes photos of her eight year old daughter. Lots of photos. About 40,000 at last count, or an average of about half a roll of film per day. A handful of those photos showed her daughter in the bathtub, using a sprayer to rinse off her genitals. The Gestapo representative at the film processing plant noticed those photos and reported the woman for producing child pornography. She now faces felony child-pornography charges and a sixteen-year prison term. Nor is this the first such incident. A grandmother was arrested on similar charges for taking photographs of her two grandchildren, ages four and six, in the tub. This isn't really Political Correctness gone mad. It's always been mad.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: J.H. Ricketson [mailto:culam@micron.net]
Sent: Saturday, March 11, 2000 6:28 PM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Cc: bilbrey@pacbell.net
Subject: Crucial Memory Policy

Dear Bob,

For some reason I read the fine print in Crucial's acknowledgement of receipt of my order for a stick of 256Mb DIMM @ US$341.99:

The fine print:

"Order Acceptance Policy: This order acknowledgement is not a contract and does not constitute an acceptance of your order, but only a record of your offer to purchase a particular item at a particular price.

After you place an order, Crucial Technology will determine whether or not to fill the order, and Crucial Technology may refuse or limit your order for any reason. By placing your order, you agree to accept all terms and conditions set forth anywhere on this site, including Crucial Technology's terms and conditions of sale.

Crucial Technology reserves the right to accept, refuse, or limit your order for any reason, including, but not limited to, credit review, the unavailability of a product or errors in the prices and product descriptions posted on this web site. By placing your order, you agree that Crucial Technology's total liability, under any legal theory or claim, shall be limited to the purchase price actually paid to Crucial for the product giving rise to Crucial's liability."

As I read this, it makes Crucial's advertised price merely a commodity report, rather than the price at which Crucial is offering merchandise for sale. Rather one-sided, IMO. They have my numbers, and can fill the order at their leisure and at their price, depending on whether they (with infinitely better info on the Memory market and its future than I) see an uptick or a down tick. No wonder they can advertise such competitive prices!

What's your take on this policy?

Regards,

JHR
[J.H. Ricketson in San Pablo]
culam@micron.net

I've been using Crucial memory for years and have never had a problem. I think this is just a CYA statement that will have absolutely no effect on anyone purchasing small amounts of memory for personal or business use. Keep in mind that Crucial actually manufactures memory, and their cost to do so is essentially the same no matter what the current price of memory is. When memory prices are high, they make a profit. When memory prices tank, they actually sell memory for less than it costs them to produce it. In other words, if they think the price of memory is going to change in the next couple of days to double (or half) the current price, it makes no difference. They have your commitment to buy that module at a specified price (and no higher), and that module costs them exactly the same to produce no matter what the current selling price is.

I've never heard of Crucial refusing to sell memory to anyone at the price they quoted even when the price is rising. On the other hand, I have heard from a couple of readers who ordered memory from Crucial at one price in a falling market and ended up being charged less than the price they were quoted. Crucial are good folks. My guess is that the statement you quote is there to protect them from memory speculators, and has nothing to do with people who are buying memory for their own use.

 


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