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Daynotes Journal

Week of 8 May 2000

Friday, 05 July 2002 08:17

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


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Monday, 8 May 2000

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The start of another week. So far, kiwi is showing no signs of overheating, so it appears that adding that Godzilla PC Power & Cooling external fan worked. The processors are happily processing at 104F/40C, and the case temperature is holding at about 81F/27C. I wish the software were behaving that well. After installing NT4 Workstation, SP6a, the video drivers, and so on, I installed Office 2000 Premium, using the "install everything, including the kitchen sink" option. Everything seems to work except Outlook 2000, which is having some rather strange problems. 

The first strange thing I noticed was when I attempted to move a message to a folder. Ordinarily, the folder list pops up already expanded. Now, however, the folder list displays only the top-level Personal Folders item, with a + sign beside it. Clicking that expands the folder list as you'd expect, but why does it now default to a collapsed tree? The second strange thing I noticed occurred the other night when Pournelle and I were talking about building a new server for Chaos Manor. I recommended the Promise FastTrak66 IDE RAID host adapter, and Jerry asked if I had a contact at Promise. Sure, says I, I'll forward it to you. I opened Contacts in Outlook, located the contact record, and chose Action -- Forward as vCard. Outlook told me that there was a component missing. Huh? I did the full install to avoid that kind of thing.

I sent mail describing the problem to black-belt Outlook expert Tom Syroid, who advised me that (a) Outlook is haunted, and (b) the best thing to do is uninstall and re-install. That wasn't what I wanted to hear, obviously. So I made an executive decision simply to live with not being able to forward vCards. At least everything else appears to be working normally. Perhaps I should install Office 2000 SR-1. Or not.

Incidentally, speaking of Tom, his new book, Outlook 2000 in a Nutshell, co-authored with Bo Leuf, is now available. If you use Outlook, do yourself a favor and get a copy right now. Make sure whoever sells it to you knows that the correct retail price is $24.95 rather than $29.95, the price that was announced before the book actually shipped. I was one of the tech editors for that book, and although I've been using Outlook since it first shipped, I learned several new and useful things in each chapter. Highly recommended.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Jonathan Sturm [mailto:jpsturm@dingoblue.net.au]
Sent: Sunday, May 07, 2000 8:24 PM
To: jpsturm@dingoblue.net.au
Subject: Alice in Wonderland

Thought this might interest you:

Part of Australia's new Goods & Sales Tax legislation

"In particular, under proposed new subsection 165-55, the Taxation Commissioner may, for the purposes of making such a declaration:

treat a particular event that actually happened as not having happened; and treat a particular event that did not actually happen as having happened; and treat a particular event that actually happened as having happened at a time different from the time it actually happened, or having involved particular action by a particular entity (whether or not the event actually involved any action by that entity)."

Jonathan Sturm (feeling a lot like Alice)

I would say that that's unbelievable, but nothing the government (anyone's government) does is unbelievable any more. Alice, indeed. If the Tax Commissioner is a reasonable person, perhaps he'll treat subsection 165-55 as "a particular event that actually happened as not having happened."

 


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Tuesday, 9 May 2000

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I got a good start yesterday on Chapter 9, Processors, for PC Hardware: The Definitive Guide, which is the working title for the book Pournelle and I are doing. I'm adding lots of tabular material now, stuff that's available, for example, on the Intel site, but that I always have trouble tracking down when I need it. Not to mention the fact that a lot of it will disappear soon. Intel provides processor specification updates in print form for something like one year after a CPU is discontinued, and on the web for three years. I've frequently needed specs on a processor older than that, so collecting the stuff in one place is worthwhile.

Barbara points out that our HP 6200C scanner is still "whores de combat" (as one of my friends used to say), and has been since I turned the Dell Pentium/200, my former Win98 box, into a Linux box. So I'd better get the new Windows 98 machine moved to its final location and get the scanner connected and configured. Unfortunately, the new Windows 98 box is the one built around the Intel CA810EAL motherboard. I have an FCPGA Pentium III/866 processor that I want to benchmark in that motherboard before I close up the case and turn it into a production system. Or perhaps I won't. The CA810EAL is a very nice integrated motherboard, but putting an 866 MHz Coppermine in it is probably overkill. Come to that, leaving the FCPGA Pentium III/650 in there is probably overkill for a Windows 98 box. I may stick a Celeron/466 or something similar in there before I close it up.

But, on the other hand, this is the only 133 MHz FSB Pentium III I have in FCPGA, so perhaps I should run the tests just to see how much difference, if any, the 133 MHz FSB makes. This 866 MHz processor is an ES (Engineering Sample) model, which means there's no multiplier lock. That means I can run it at 600EB (133 * 4.5X) to compare it to the FCPGA 600 (100 * 6X) processor that I've already tested in that motherboard. Leave it to me to be the only computerish web site that underclocks processors to test their performance.

I think I need to build a test stand, which will allow me to swap drives, motherboards, processors, and so on in and out easily. As things stand now, my test-bed systems look too much like real systems, and so tend to get put into use as production systems. I've managed to keep things standardized to this point, but the day will come when I can't run a valid comparison because I no longer have the right motherboard, processor, or whatever available.

Bringing new meaning to the phrase "rotating tires", Barbara informed me yesterday that we had an 8:00 a.m. appointment with our mechanic to have the tires switched between the white Trooper, which I now drive, and the blue Trooper, which she now drives. We had new tires put on the white truck a month or so ago, just before the air conditioning compressor failed in it. So, we immediately traded trucks, so that she could have the one with the working AC. I drive my truck literally 50 miles a month or less, so there wasn't much point to paying $1,300 to have the AC fixed in a truck that spends nearly all its time in the garage. So it made sense to just garage the white one, move its new tires to the blue one, and let Barbara drive the blue one, since she spends a lot more time on the road. She did announce that she was going to snatch the "good" cargo net from the white one and move it to the blue one, a decision she later rescinded in favor of just buying a new super cargo net for her truck. I'm just glad that the CD player in the blue one is more recent than the CD player in the white one, or I'd probably have to tear out both dashboards and swap those, too.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Jonathan Sturm [mailto:jpsturm@dingoblue.net.au]
Sent: Monday, May 08, 2000 11:22 AM
To: webmaster@ttgnet.com
Subject: O2K SR-1

Robert, you wrote:

"Perhaps I should install Office 2000 SR-1. Or not."

I did it immediately after a fresh install of everything (except the Office toolbar) and it worked. More, it improved several things. Still plenty of bugs to moan about if I chose, but why be miserable when... it's raining! [1]

You mentioned your collie [2] dogs' intelligence. Today I was stacking wood when I heard the school bus in the distance. "Ricky, where's Thomas?" I said to the dog and for the first time he ignored me and continued to observe my wood stacking. Usually, he runs to the bottom of the drive and barks a welcome to my son as he walks the 180 metres from the main road. I had forgotten that my son was doing his kayaking exam this afternoon.

L8R

Jonathan Sturm

[1] We live in a rural district and are suffering a record-breaking drought.
[2] Ricky is a border colly/Smithfield cross.

I didn't install Office 2000 SR-1 because there have been some reports of problems associated with upgrading copies supplied to journalists and reviewers, which is what I have. At some point, I'll probably install O2K and SR-1 on a test-bed system, just to see what happens. But this is my main production machine. 

Your dog sounds like a typical BC. Their intelligence is frightening sometimes. I've often thought that if only they had a voicebox they'd be able to speak intelligible English. Malcolm is building his own PC, or so I speculate. The other day, I caught him trying to sneak out of my office with a CD-ROM drive in his mouth. The day before that, I'd stopped him as he trotted down the hall carrying a boxed motherboard. Ridiculous, I know. But still...

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Colbeck, Andrew [mailto:AColbeck@bentall.com]
Sent: Monday, May 08, 2000 4:04 PM
To: 'WG2140@ccccd.edu'
Cc: 'webmaster@ttgnet.com'
Subject: Overclocking a Compaq 575 - personal experience

Mr. Ganz, I too have a Compaq Prolinea 575. In fact, I have several Compaq Pentium class castoffs from my company.

I purchased an Evergreen Technologies Spectra 266 and found that it flat out wouldn't work (by the way, their chip of choice was an IDT WinChip). Hashing out the details with Evergreen and Compaq tech support revealed that the voltage supplied to the CPU socket was just a smidgen too little to power the replacement chip.

I was able to return it without a problem.

I blanched at the major alternative, which was to purchase an AcceleraPCI. It was too much money that would go better towards a whole new computer.

What I did was look at how fast a chip I could put in, or overclock the existing chip. Following the diagram in the case, I found that the best I could do was 120Mhz. I changed the jumpers and found that it did indeed boot, but the heat sink got noticeably hotter.

I took out the existing Pentium 75 plus heatsink, went to my local discount computer shop, and bought a Pentium 120 and a heat sink with a fan ($22). This was a very simple procedure, and my computer now runs coolly at 120Mhz.

Upgrading the amount of RAM you have could be a better speed boost than anything else.

If you upgrade the hard drive, I found that the LBA mode support was very weak, and that a hard drive bigger than 525 MB had problems; specifically, I would have to use Drive Manager from OnTrack to use my 8GB drive with a Microsoft operating system if I wanted it to see more than 525 MB. The system will only support the drive if I tell the BIOS that my operating system is Unix.

I also found that there is a BIOS update which you can download from Compaq which resolves Y2K problems and also fixes an important issue with the second IDE controller.

If you are using a Microsoft Windows product, you will find that the graphics controller built into the motherboard (Cirrus Logic 5434) is buggy under DirectX and that there is no fix. If this is important to you, but a cheap PCI SVGA card from your local discount shop, or just chalk up another reason to buy a whole new computer.

p.s. Upgrading the motherboard is not an option; this model uses a unique mainboard plus daughterboard design.

Thanks. I suspected one of my readers would know.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Colbeck, Andrew [mailto:AColbeck@bentall.com]
Sent: Monday, May 08, 2000 5:41 PM
To: 'John.Dominik@GreatClips.com'
Cc: 'thompson@ttgnet.com'
Subject: re: Your message to Bob Thompson on April 24th

Actually, there is a simple way to tell apart two identical NICs in an NT machine.

NT numbers the NICs starting with the highest slot; in practical terms this means that the one closer to the power supply is [1].

Cheers.

Thanks. I assume that you mean that NT numbers NICs based on the PCI interrupt assigned to them, which makes sense. In that case, you could indeed tell which was which by their slot position, assuming you hadn't used the BIOS facility to remap PCI interrupts to slots. I haven't built many multi-homed NT boxes, and those that I have built I've used two different models of NIC in. Not by design, but simply because I've always added a NIC to a system that already had one, and somehow I always ended up with a different brand of NIC each time. I suppose I should do some experimenting with this.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Flipside [mailto:bob@flipsideq.com]
Sent: Monday, May 08, 2000 10:00 PM
To: topics@ttgnet.com
Subject: Sony pressa crx140e

I recently purchased a sony spressa CRX140E. I'm happy with the burner, I can record data, and audio files such as Mp3 and wav into CD .cda., but I haven't been able to get one of the features to work. How do you get data and audio on the same CD? The software says you can do it and the instructions are easy enough, but I burn the CD and then check, and theres only the data files on the CD, the audio doesn't appear at all. Anyone know a solution to this problem?

I've not used the Sony drive, and I'm not sure what the problem could be. Perhaps one of my readers will know.

 


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Wednesday, 10 May 2000

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Late update today, and a short one. My Internet connection has been down all morning, and that's put me behind. I got quite a bit of work done yesterday on the processors chapter for the Chaos Manor book. This morning, on the other hand, was frustrating. Just as I'd get into the flow, I'd need to check a fact quickly. Pretty difficult when one's link is down. So I've lost several hours of productivity thanks to the fact that BellSouth was down. Actually, that's not fair to them. They got it back up within a few hours, and they very seldom go down. I can't remember the last time I got a busy signal while trying to connect to them. As far as dial-up ISPs, BellSouth is first rate. But I sure wish I had an alternative connection. Perhaps if I get a cable modem, I'll keep the dial-up account as a backup. It wouldn't do much good as a backup to ADSL, though, because when BellSouth loses it, it's usually a loss of their Internet connectivity to the world rather than a problem with their terminal servers.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Mitch Armistead [mailto:mhaathome@worldnet.att.net]
Sent: Tuesday, May 09, 2000 10:19 AM
To: webmaster@ttgnet.com
Subject: Test Bed Stand

Robert,

Saw this link just yesterday.  It seemed perfect for what you're looking for, though it wasn't readily obvious how to order it.

Thanks. It looks like they're interested in selling to resellers rather than individuals. For my own test stand, I think I'll just use a 2X2 foot square of plywood. I'll bolt a power supply on it and salvage a couple of removable drive bays and perhaps a motherboard tray from some old cases I have down in the basement, assuming that Barbara hasn't discarded them. I'll permanently mount a floppy disk drive, a CD-ROM drive, and probably a hard disk of 10 GB or so. I'll put both of the latter on the primary IDE channel, and partition the hard disk to include boot volumes for Windows 98SE, Windows NT 4, and Windows 2000, along with a separate "distribution volume" where I'll store the Setup files for the various operating systems, service packs, my benchmark programs, and so on. That should make it easy to strip down and rebuild the "permanent" hard disk on the fly, and will leave the secondary IDE channel available for testing hard drives and so on. Actually, I may build two or three of them, and perhaps make them stackable. With a KVM switch, that'd give me what I need to make testing more convenient.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Jan Swijsen [mailto:qjsw@oce.nl]
Sent: Wednesday, May 10, 2000 7:41 AM
To: Robert Bruce Thompson
Subject: trooper + overkill

>.....or I'd probably have to tear out both dashboards and swap those, too. 

If you're not careful Barbara could end up driving a blue and white striped six wheeler. While you end up doing your 50 miles per months on a bare chassis. :-)

>...Pentium III/650 in there is probably overkill for a Windows 98 box. 

I don't think any processor would be overkill. You make it sound as if Win98 is absolutely unusable. I can agree that it is not the best, most stable, etc. etc. system around. But it is about the best games OS for PCs available (at the moment) and for games no single processor is overkill.

So it is not because the box runs (ahum) Win98 that the PentiumIIII/650 is overkill.

As you are putting Win98 back to be able to use the scanner I assume it will be doing some image processing which will benefit from the faster chip (if only to be able to get the image onto something more stable faster).

-- 
Svenson.

Mail at work : qjsw@oce.nl, or call : (Oce HQ)-4727 
Mail at home : sjon@svenson.com

I've been married for 16 years, so I just tell Barbara to take what she wants. She did laugh out loud when I read your message to her though. As far as Windows 98, I was speaking in terms of my use of a Windows 98 box, which is mainly for taking screen shots and so on for books. Any image processing I need to do would be done on an NT box. I don't play computer games much, although I understand that a serious gamer runs Windows 98 and wants as much processor as possible.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Chuck Waggoner [waggoner (at) gis (dot) net]
Sent: Wednesday, May 10, 2000 9:58 AM
To: Robert Bruce Thompson (E-mail); Chris Ward-Johnson (E-mail)
Subject: Copyrights

If you didn't see this article, it's worth the read.

Indeed. There's a truly frightening concept. Why would authors, musicians, and other content creators continue to work if there were no prospect of being paid for their efforts? Even worse, as the article points out, proliferation of this technology would make it almost impossible to track down the creators of viruses, ensuring that the net became an even more dangerous place than it is already. It seems to me that Mr. Clark does not understand the difference between anarchy and chaos. He purports to be encouraging anarchy when in fact what he is encouraging is chaos. Two very different things.

 


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Thursday, 11 May 2000

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Turns out I was optimistic about our Internet link being fixed yesterday. It came up just long enough for me to publish and download some email, then died again. For the next several hours, each time I connected, the link alternated between having no IP connectivity at all, and having full IP connectivity, but only for 30 seconds to a minute after the initial dial-up connection was made. Just about long enough to retrieve one or two web pages, or a few emails. Barbara gave up trying to work on her research project. She spent most of the day planting flowers and stuff in the yard. 

Still, aggravating though it is when this happens, I keep reminding myself that BellSouth in general does a superb job. Something like this happens perhaps once every six months. The rest of the time, connectivity is perfect. No busy signals, and everything works just as it's supposed to. Except, that is, their SMTP server. I frequently have to resend emails from Outlook because I get the "No transport provider available..." message. That just means that Outlook can't connect to their SMTP server. That's one reason I'll eventually bring up my own local Linux SMTP/POP3/DNS server. That and the fact that BellSouth limits outgoing messages to 15 addressees.

PC Hardware in a Nutshell is finally out to the technical reviewers, so I should start getting comments before long. My editor, Robert Denn, actually printed the book duplexed on one of O'Reilly's big laser printers and FedEx'd copies out to the reviewers. Each reviewer will send his comments via email to me, CC'd to Robert. I'll make whatever corrections are necessary in the master copy, and then the book will go to production. I've never done a TR on paper before, so this will be an interesting process. In the past, I've always done tech reviews (both me TRing other's books and others TRing mine) totally electronically--read the document in Word on screen and add comments to it. Perhaps using a printed copy will be easier, although I'd be happy to provide the chapters in electronic form to any tech reviewer who prefers to work with them that way.

Until TR comments start coming back, I'm hard at work on the Processors chapter for the big book Pournelle and I are doing. This book will compete head-on with Scott Mueller's Upgrading and Repairing PCs. That book is generally regarded to be the best of the hardware books, and I think it probably is, at least of the six or eight I have here. The problem is, I think it looks good only because its competition is so poor. The best of bad bunch, in other words. I talked in some detail earlier this week with both my editor and my agent about one issue, perceived comprehensiveness. 

Mueller's book is what is referred to in computer book publishing as a Frankenbook, which is a huge book assembled from the efforts of many authors. Usually, most of those authors do Work for Hire. That is, they are paid a fixed sum to write a chapter or chapters, but do not participate in royalties. The problem with using WFH authors, which I refuse to do, is that they are paid by the word or by the page. What that means, of course, is that the WFH authors are motivated to turn in the maximum amount of material for the minimum amount of effort. The result is hugely padded material.

I'll give a concrete example. I have a copy of Mueller's 10th edition here. The Processors chapter is something like 130 pages long, but (in my opinion) contains only perhaps 70 pages of useful content. For example, there is one 3.5 page table that lists the signals for every pin of the SC242 (Slot 1) connector. What possible use could this be to anyone, except perhaps a motherboard designer? And even he would be much more likely to get that information directly from Intel technical documents. So that information is entirely useless.

My dilemma is this: although that kind of information is completely useless, many readers may perceive it as adding to the comprehensiveness of the book. Will I hurt the sales prospects of the book by leaving useless information like this out because potential buyers will regard the O'Reilly book as less comprehensive because that information is missing? Both my editor and my agent believe I should take the high road, leaving out truly useless information that appears in the Mueller book only because it makes an impressive table, and putting in only information that is truly useful. Please understand, I don't intend to put in only information that is useful to a large percentage of readers. That is, if a particular table might be useful to only 10% (or even 1%) of readers, it will go in.

The only reason I worry about stuff like this is an experience I had very early in my computer book writing career. I wrote about a quarter or a third of the first edition of Special Edition: Using Windows NT Server 4, which was actually a pretty good book. When that book finally arrived at the bookstores, everyone was very upset over what seemed to me a trivial problem. It turned out that the first printing of the book was done on thinner paper than was supposed to have been used. The result was that the spine width was something like 1.7", rather than the planned 2.25". Everyone involved at the publisher was terrified that this mistake would kill sales, because no one would buy that thin 1.7" book when bookstore shelves were full of thicker competing books. I thought that was ridiculous. I mean, who buys a $50 or $60 book based solely on spine width? Apparently, a lot of people. Que immediately reprinted the book on thicker paper, giving it the target 2.25" spine width, and sales increased dramatically. Ever since then, I've been conscious of such issues.

I know my inclination. Put in only solid information, and damn the torpedoes. That's also the advice my editor and agent gave me, so I guess that's how it will be. But I'm still nervous.

 


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Friday, 12 May 2000

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Barbara is off this morning to do a home visit for CBCR with someone who wants to adopt a rescue Border Collie. The person lives on a farm, and is interested in getting a working dog. That's an excellent fit for a rescue BC, because many of the dogs that end up in rescue do so because their activity levels are too high for them to be pets. Most of those high-energy dogs turn into excellent working dogs. They're happier that way, anyway. 

Barbara is taking Duncan and Malcolm along for the ride, and to give the prospective adopter a chance to meet a couple of active BCs. I think she stole the cargo net from my white Trooper. As Jan says, she'll soon have a blue-and-white striped Trooper with six wheels, and I'll be left with a bare frame, which I'll probably have to pedal to make go anywhere. I caught her looking at my jack and tire iron yesterday.

I've gotten some preliminary feedback from some of the tech reviewers, and the consensus seems to be that PC Hardware in a Nutshell doesn't suck. I'll take their word for it, because I haven't read the book yet. I know that must sound odd, but the fact is that writing a book and reading it are two different things. It's a forest/trees issue. I'm so focused on individual chapters and parts of chapters that I have no real gestalt of the book as a whole.

Thanks also to all of you who took the time to respond to my post yesterday about steak versus sizzle. The unanimous opinion, including that from several readers who are themselves writers, is that my editor and agent (and my own inclination) are correct: that I should focus on quality content and not worry about "useless information, supposed to fire my imagination". So that's what I'm going to do.

Pournelle called last night to talk about building a new NT4 Primary Domain Controller to replace his failed PDC. He'd never installed NT4S as a domain controller before, so I gave him a few pointers. What I should have asked was which motherboard he was using. As it turned out, he was using an Intel CA810EAL, which has embedded Intel 10/100 Ethernet. I could have saved him some major hassles if I'd thought to ask.

The problem is, the NT4 distribution CD has what appears to be the proper LAN driver for the Intel 10/100 adapter. If you use it, though, it not only doesn't work, it sometimes causes NT4 to bluescreen. I first encountered this problem six or eight months ago, when I was building Barbara's latest system. It uses an Intel SR440BX motherboard. I can't remember if it has an embedded Intel 10/100 adapter, or whether I installed a standalone Intel PRO/100+ Management Adapter. Either way, the results would have been the same. 

I was sitting there doing the installation. When NT4 Setup got to the part about installing the LAN adapter, I let it do a search. I remember being surprised that the 1996-vintage NT4 installation CD not only found my Ethernet adapter, but had the correct driver for it. I could have kicked myself, because I had an Intel LAN driver disk that I'd just created from a freshly downloaded driver file lying on the desk beside me, but I decided to let NT4 proceed. Everything appeared to work properly at first. The lights on the card came on, and it was apparently working properly. To make a long story short, it doesn't work, there's no way to make it work, and the only solution appears to be to strip the hard disk down to bare metal and do a complete re-install. I was never able to succeed in replacing the old, defective driver with the new version.

Jerry posted the sad story on his web page, which I read first thing this morning. I immediately sent him email to tell him that he needed to get the new driver. A few minutes later, my phone rang. It was Jerry. He'd gotten my email and so knew I was awake. Here it is 8:00 a.m. my time, which means 5:00 a.m. his time. He'd been up all night struggling with this mess. Fortunately, Roberta is at the beach house. Otherwise, she might have learned some new words.

Time to go back to work on the Processors chapter. I expect I'll be getting another call or three from Jerry today and this evening. 

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Bo Leuf [mailto:bo@leuf.com]
Sent: Friday, May 12, 2000 5:15 AM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: appearances

So appearance *is* everything... :)

> The result was that the spine width was something like 1.7", rather than the planned 2.25".

I can relate. And of course if every other book is going for the dominate-the-shelves approach, this makes a slimmer volume so much slimmer by comparison. Good that you have full backing on sticking by your intentions. You can always hope that the bookshops turn the stack of your volumes face-forward on the shelves, which does a lot more for sales.

I can remember when some full-version paperbacks of SF novels were printed on high-quality thin paper -- you'd have a slim little thing that actually turned out to have a hundred more pages than the volume right beside it which was a good half-inch thicker. And sometimes I would had a omnibus edition of a trilogy, but customers still tended to buy the separate volumes by another publisher, spending perhaps factor 2.5 more and needing upwards of 4 times the shelf space at home. That is until I consistently turned the omnibus volume face-forward and placed it first.

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

Actually, that hope is not as unreasonable as it might at first appear. Many bookstores have "O'Reilly Boutiques"--sections devoted entirely to O'Reilly titles. They'll stick a couple copies of my book in the appropriate section with the other hardware books, but put most of them in the O'Reilly section. I've watched buyers in some bookstores that have dedicated O'Reilly sections. It's interested. Someone will walk in, go directly to the O'Reilly section, and look for a book on the subject they're interested in. If they find it, they buy it. If not, only then do they go over to the general computer books section and start looking. Among a large percentage of the computer book buying public, O'Reilly is perceived as the best, in the sense that many people figure if O'Reilly publishes a book on a topic, it's almost certainly the best title available. That's a heavy responsibility for an O'Reilly author, and most of us are very conscious of it. But then, as an O'Reilly author, you already know that.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Alan Donders [mailto:alan_donders@hotmail.com]
Sent: Friday, May 12, 2000 8:39 AM
To: webmaster@ttgnet.com
Subject: PC Hardware

Bob, 

Eagerly awaiting your "PC Hardware In A Nutshell" book. Hopefully it will answer questions like the following, but while I'm waiting I would appreciate if you could help out. I'm assembling a new PC from parts with an EIDE CD-ROM and an EIDE CD-RW and I was trying to figure out if it matters which CD drive should be the slave device on the primary channel and which should be the master device on the secondary channel (with the hard drive being the master device on the primary channel).

Yep, the answer to that is in there. But, in short, what you want to do is put your hard disk as primary master, your CD-ROM as primary slave, and your CD-R(W) drive as secondary master. That way, the CD burner and the source drive are on different ATA channels whether you are copying from your hard disk to your CD-RW drive or from your CD-ROM drive to your CD-RW drive. Also, if all three devices are DMA-capable, you probably want to enable DMA mode on both channels. I say "probably" because I have encountered situations where all three devices are DMA-capable, but enabling DMA on the CD-R channel causes burning problems, while everything works fine if that channel is left using PIO mode. Test it with DMA enabled. If it works, fine. If not, try turning off DMA for the channel that the CD-R(W) drive connects to.

* * * * *

10:00: Two posts in quick succession this morning, so if you haven't read this page already this morning, start at the top of the page.

The Register reports yet another serious security flaw in Internet Explorer. This one allows information stored in cookies, including such things as passwords, to be read by a machine that is a member of a domain other than that which created the cookie.

The Register also reports that Microsoft has posted a beta version of SP1 for Windows 2000. It's 190 MB, which surely must hold the record for a service pack. It sounds as though they're replacing a substantial portion of Windows 2000 with fixed files, which is probably not a bad idea. I've taken flack for suggesting that the release version of W2K is really a thinly-disguised beta. I think I can rest my case on this announcement. Any product that requires a 190 MB service pack three months after its initial release can't possibly have been a real release version to start with.

Conventional wisdom says you should wait for SP1 before deploying a product. I think that's dangerously optimistic for W2K, particularly Server. I wouldn't even consider deploying W2KS in a production environment until at least SP3, if not SP4. All you have to do is look at the history of SPs for earlier products to realize that I'm probably right about this. When was the last time that any SP1 cured more problems than it created?

 


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Saturday, 13 May 2000

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Barbara learned during her home visit yesterday that she'd been mistaken about why the woman wanted a Border Collie. We thought she intended to make it a working dog, to herd sheep or cows. It turns out that she does want to make it a working dog, but of a different sort. She wants to train it as a rescue dog, one that goes out and finds lost hikers and so on. When Barbara told me, I expressed surprise that she'd want a Border Collie for that purpose. Border Collies have a good nose, but nothing like a bloodhound. 

Barbara said there was an interesting story behind the woman's desire for a BC. Apparently, she'd read about another rescue organization out in the Midwest. A little girl was lost in the woods, and they had a large team out searching for her using dogs, including a Border Collie. Near dusk, they reluctantly decided that they had no choice but to abandon the search. It was snowing, you see, so hard that they could barely see their hands in front of their faces. They knew that by abandoning the search they were probably condemning the little girl to death, but they believed that if they continued the search they would risk the lives of all the searchers and likely not find the little girl anyway. 

When they arrived back at their trucks and started loading up the dogs, the Border Collie refused to get back in its crate. They called it repeatedly, but it absolutely refused to approach them, and backed away when they attempted to approach it. Finally, the Border Collie ran off down the trail and disappeared into the snowstorm. At dawn, they were able to continue the search. They found both little girl and Border Collie alive, with the Border Collie lying on top of the little girl to keep her warm. So that's why this woman wants a Border Collie.

I don't know if the story is true or not. If not, it should be. And I think it probably is.

Barbara is off to visit her mother and sister. I'm going to spend some time today getting my office rationalized, particularly my desk and credenza. I need to get the new Win98 box moved over onto my desk and connected to the scanner, get the software installed and so on. I also need to do my weekly full network backup.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Andre I. Mel'cuk [mailto:amelcuk@polysci.umass.edu]
Sent: Friday, May 12, 2000 10:39 AM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: Comments on the thickness of the sizzle

I thought I would add one point that nobody seemed to have raised so far (yes, I vote for skipping the useless stuff; I go for the ORA section if there is one; over 60% of my computer books are in fact ORA's, so most of what was said I would have said myself): Thin books are *good*. I usually go for the thinner book, given a choice. Other than the obvious lack of superfluous information, the binding tends to last longer, it saves space on my shelves, weighs less, and tends to cost less in the bargain. Having good vision, I like small type on thin paper!

Here is an example: Farquhar's Optimizing Windows fGG&M is about 11/16", blue and was borrowed more often in the couple of months that I had it than Frisch's Essential System Administration, equally blue, but 1 7/8" thick. In the years that I have had ESA (a fine book, from an author I otherwise respect), it was borrowed once, but the second copy of my Unix System Administration Handbook (Nemeth et al.) is getting ratty (a svelte 1 3/16"!).

Come to think of it, how come all of my books are 1/16" shy of a more round number? Am I being cheated?

Anyhow, I am looking forward to both of your books and add my vote to the 'solid information' camp. But then again, I am not a starving author...

Best wishes,

A.

Good points. Good things do often come in small(er) packages. But I confess that I am myself sometimes guilty of the practice I condemn. Not when it comes to computer books. I don't consider thickness a selection criterion for them. But I do admit that when I'm browsing the shelves at the library for fiction to add to my to-be-read stack, I usually go for the thicker book, all other things being equal. Not for some stuff, obviously, like mysteries. And I do choose first by author, and second by whether the title and/or cover art makes the book look like something I'd want to read. And, for authors who are new to me, probably third by the number of other books the author has written, because if I like the current book I want to have available many other titles by the same author. But thickness, or more precisely page count, is definitely a factor.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Richard Micko [mailto:rmicko@clipperinc.com]
Sent: Friday, May 12, 2000 4:14 PM
To: webmaster@ttgnet.com
Subject: NT4 SBS Advanced Security

Mr. Thompson:

1.) I've enjoyed reading your daynotes since being seduced through Jerry Pournelle's site. The daynotes website is a truly awful construction... so many avenues to procrastinate the task at hand...

2.) I have a NT 4.5 SBS at a customer site that I have multihomed to take advantage of a T1 connection. The problem I am experiencing is that SBS (irritatingly enough) will not allow itself to exist with another DHCP server. IF SBS detects another DHCP, it shuts down its own service. Due to the nature of the customer install, I am not at liberty to change the DHCP server which is being implemented by a Lucent router to dole out ip addresses to the rest of the building. In trying to come up with a solution, I customized the external NIC's configuration to reject UDP ports 67 & 68, so that SBS will not see a DHCP server from the Lucent router. If that worked, I was going to fine tune the ports even more to beef up security. However, whenever the configuration is run, while the DHCP server works fine, I can no longer get any traffic from the "outside". I cannot browse from the server itself or any workstation. The advanced security setting in TCP/IP properties requires you to choose which ports to accept, instead of which ports to reject. At first I thought perhaps my understanding of UDP ports wasn't complete enough, so I added every common port I could find, but to no avail. The only way I could get traffic from the inside was to enable all UDP ports, thus causing my DHCP conflict. Currently my work around is to assign static 10.0.0.x addresses to the workstations. The workaround works, but I sure would like to find a way to keep the DHCP service working and enhance security... the perils of ignoring being too great these days.

3.) I am not confident that these intrusions are welcome. I haven't been a reader of your site long enough to confirm, but it seems like you are open to missives such as these. If not, please accept my apologies.

Thank you for your courtesy,

Richard Micko
Clipper Computer Consulting, Inc.
rmicko@ClipperInc.com

I have no experience with SBS or Lucent routers, and situations like this are always difficult to diagnose at a distance, particularly when one has no idea of the physical and logical topology of the network, nor any grasp of administrative and security requirements. However, a couple of thoughts do come to mind. Is there any reason you need to use the SBS DHCP server at all? Could you disable the SBS DHCP server and just use the DHCP server on the Lucent router instead? The MS DHCP client is quite capable of using non-Microsoft DHCP servers. Or, if you need to isolate the SBS segment from the rest of the network, could you install a small router (perhaps Linux-based) between the SBS and the Lucent router? Alternatively, could you configure the Lucent router to discard DHCP packets on the interface to which the SBS segment connects? There are many other possibilities. Some of my readers who have experience with SBS may have other ideas.

 


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Sunday, 14 May 2000

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I'm starting to get more feedback from some of the technical reviewers for PC Hardware in a Nutshell. So far, the opinions seem good, which is a relief. It's nearly impossible for an author to judge his own work objectively. It's not so much that the author is prone to like his own work too much (I tend rather to dislike what I've written unless I wait long enough to approach it fresh). It's more that one tends to read what one intended to write rather than what one actually wrote, as well as the fact that an author reads while making assumptions that won't necessarily be true for actual readers. So the technical review process is well worth the effort, and I pay close attention to all reviewers' comments. I don't incorporate them all, obviously, but every one gets serious thought.

I'm about ready to pull the Voyetra/Turtle Beach Montego II Quadzilla out of kiwi and put a Creative SoundBlaster in instead. Yesterday I decided that before I moved my new Win98 box into place, I'd do some final clean-up and tweaking on kiwi. Part of that was installing sound drivers, which I hadn't gotten around to doing earlier. After four hours of work, I still don't have reliable sound, and my system is doing strange things. 

It now takes half an hour to shut down, for example, whereas before it took about a minute. Also, Internet Explorer is now acting strangely. Also, before I installed the Voyetra sound drivers, clicking on a .JPG file brought up IrfanView, whereas clicking on an .MP3 file brought up Windows Media Player, albeit with a message that there was no sound card available. After I installed the sound driver, clicking on an MP3 sometimes brought up IrfanView, which complained that it didn't have the MP3 add-in installed, and sometimes brought up WMP. What was even stranger was that clicking on a JPG did the same thing. Poor WMP had no idea how to play a JPG.

I first tried highlighting a file and using Shift-click to display the Open With option. I then told NT to use IrfanView for JPGs, making sure to mark the "always use" checkbox to map an association from the JPG extension to IrfanView. I did the same for WMP. No joy. It still alternated which application it used. So I went in and fixed the associations manually. That worked, for some reason, and I thought I had the problem fixed. That problem was indeed fixed, but others showed up. Last night, I was playing an MP3 file while I edited one of Barbara's web pages. When I clicked Save, the sound died abruptly. WMP still thought it was playing the MP3 file, but there was no sound coming out of the speakers. A reboot cured the problem, but when I repeated the process, the sound died again.

So this morning I uninstalled the Voyetra drivers and restarted. The system took only a minute to shutdown, as before, and came back up normally. File associations of MP3 to WMP and JPG to IrfanView work correctly. I just don't have any sound. My guess is that the problem has to do with the fact that this is a multi-processor machine. I can't find any reference to that on the Voyetra web site, but in my experience sound is particularly hinky on an SMP box. I guess I'll just fish around my shelves for a real SoundBlaster card and see if that fixes the problem.

I'd better go do laundry. And I really do want to get this Win98 box in place and working, with the scanner hooked up.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Jonathan Hassell [mailto:hassell@hassell.pair.com]
Sent: Saturday, May 13, 2000 11:55 AM
To: rmicko@clipperinc.com
Cc: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: NT/SBS DHCP

I've found that having DHCP Server and DHCP Client on the same server is coming close to 99% dangerous. From your message, I can't see any reason to use the SBS DHCP Server...I have a multihomed SBS box here which functions just fine with just the client.

I can't say for sure this will work without knowing more about your network and its configuration, but I'd be happy to try.

Jonathan Hassell
hassell@hassell.pair.com
http://hassell.pair.com

Thanks.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Holden Aust [mailto:linuxenthusiast@postmaster.co.uk]
Sent: Saturday, May 13, 2000 7:53 PM
To: Bob Thompson
Subject: A solution for Richard Micko's need for a DHCP server

What might be the ideal solution for your reader who wanted a simple, reliable DHCP server and router, Richard Micko, can be found at:

www.sharethenet.com

This is a small, well-designed Windows app which walks you through some dialogue boxes to set IP addresses and the configuration of network cards and then creates a single, 3.5" bootable LRP Linux Router Project floppy disk. Pop the diskette into a 386/486/586 + PC with 8 megs of RAM and you have a firewall, router, DHCP server, DNS server, and/or mini-web server. You can choose which services to have running when you create the disk or you can administer the server via a browser from another PC on the network (you can have only the firewall and DHCP server running, for instance).

You don't need a hard disk and since you can write-protect the floppy disk, even if a cracker somehow gets into the box, he won't be able to save any trojan horses or make any permanent modifications on the server because he can't write to the floppy disk.

I figure you grab that old 386/486/586 motherboard that's been gathering dust in the corner, put $20 of ram in it, put it in a $30 case, add a $15 3.5" floppy, put in any old video board, even an old monochrome text board (you don't need a monitor, but most motherboards won't boot unless they can find the video board), two inexpensive NICs and for less than $100 in hardware, you will have a reliable, sophisticated Linux firewall, router, DHCP server, DNS server and web server. You don't need to have a monitor or a keyboard attached to the server.

The author of ShareTheNet wants $70 for the program which seems very reasonable to me, considering the work that's gone into making the creation of an LRP disk so simple. He also offers tech support for registered copies. There is a free copy for those who are able and willing to compile their own version.

Thanks. I've heard good things elsewhere about the LRP. I should probably bring one up just for the learning experience.

 


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