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Daynotes Journal

Week of 3 July 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, 3 July 2000

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I spent a lot of time this weekend working on the HardwareGuys.com web site, although much of what I was working on won't be obvious. But the site is up off its knees now, or if not that, at least no longer flat on its face. My goal is to have the site ready to go live by 31 July/1 August, so there's a lot to be done between now and then. Of course, that goal was based on my expectation that PC Hardware in a Nutshell would hit the bookstores in late July or early August. It now looks as though it may be a September title, so I have a bit more room to play.

As I mentioned Friday, it's been about nine months since I last built a new main system for myself. Since most people use single-processor systems and ATA, I've decided to abandon dual processors and SCSI for now and instead build the best single-processor IDE-based system I can. Here's what I've decided to use:

Case: I need lots of room, and I like full-tower cases. One of the nicest full-tower cases I've seen lately is the Antec SX1030 SOHO File Server case. It has 10 drive bays, lots of cooling fans, and comes with a 300 Watt Antec PP303X power supply which is more than good enough for what I plan to do. It also has a hinged front door that will help keep the dust and dog hair out of the machine, as well as preventing our 9-month old puppy from turning off my system while I'm using it, which he's done once already. Although Antec positions this product as a SOHO server case, it's equally well-suited for a high-end personal workstation.

Motherboard: The i815E "Solano II" chipset, the long-awaited true successor to the Intel 440BX, has finally arrived, in the form of the Intel D815EEA "Easton" desktop board. The 815E chipset is everything the 820 should have been and wasn't, and seems poised to dominate the chipset business in the same way the 440BX did. I have a pre-production engineering sample D815EEA, so that's what I'll use.

Processor: No question here. The Intel Pentium III/933 is the fastest processor that Intel makes. (Well, unless you count the Pentium III/1000, which isn't really shipping in any quantity). I'll let others debate the virtues of the Pentium III versus the Athlon and run a bunch of fundamentally meaningless benchmarks, because the fact is that the Pentium III/933 is one very fast processor.

Memory: I've been extremely pleased with the results of my tests on Kingston memory. This system gets 256 MB of PC133 Kingston ValueRAM.

Hard disk: I wanted a fast 7200 RPM ATA/66 drive of reasonable size. The 20 GB Seagate ST320420A Barracuda ATA II is the obvious choice.

CD-RW drive: For the best ATAPI CD burner, there's really no alternative. The specs of the Plextor PlexWriter 12/10/32A are simply incredible. As impressive as 12X writes are in an ATAPI drive, what's really amazing is the 10X rewrites. That blows away all earlier drives, and makes CD-RW a realistic alternative for backup, archiving, and similar duties. Just as important as the high speed of this drive is the fact that it incorporates a licensed technology called BURN-proof, which is supposed to eliminate buffer underruns. According to Plextor, you can now multitask with your PC while still burning perfect copies every time. I plan to put this assertion to the test. I'll use the system heavily while doing a 12X burn from an image file on the hard disk to the PlexWriter. If it passes that test, there's no question that the Bad Olde Days of making coasters with ATAPI burners are over. 

Video adapter: The Easton comes with embedded Intel 82815E graphics, and also includes a 4X AGP slot. That slot can be filled with a standard AGP video card, or with the Intel Graphics Performance Accelerator (GPA), which is basically a video memory card that supports the embedded graphics accelerator. I'll test the system using the embedded graphics, but I may eventually install an ATI All-In-Wonder 128 for its TV functions.

I'll fill out the system with a Microsoft Internet Keyboard Pro and a Microsoft IntelliMouse Explorer. The system will dual-boot Windows 98SE and Windows 2000 Professional. This will be the first main system I've had that provides full USB support, because in the past I've run only Windows NT 4 on my main systems. The USB support will give me a chance to do some things I've not been able to do before. For example, before I drop my dial-up account at BellSouth.net, I'll probably use it to test the Actiontec 56KB USB Call Waiting Modem. There'll be a bunch of other testing, benchmarking, and burning in before I migrate the system to its eventual home, so it may be a month or more after I complete the system before it takes over as my main system. At that point, kiwi, my old main system, a dual Pentium III/550 with SCSI throughout, goes to the workbench for a complete overhaul and eventual assignment to other duties.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Ken Scott [mailto:ken@optikos.net]
Sent: Sunday, July 02, 2000 2:12 PM
To: stevephl@pcisys.net
Cc: thompson@ttgnet.com

Subject: Linux network services for Mac and Windows

Hello all,

Steve posted a question about being able to provide file and printer sharing from a Linux server to both Macintosh and Windows clients.

The solution is a combination of two products on Linux, both open source. The first is Samba which provides file and printer sharing to Windows clients.

The second product is called netatalk, which provides the AppleTalk services that Mac clients are looking for.

The netatalk page has a pointer to find updated RPM files, which should install fine on Mandrake (I used them on RedHat 6.0 with no problems).

Just configure Samba and netatalk to share the same directories and printers, and everyone will be able to find and use the same files.

HTH,

Ken Scott -- <>< Ken Scott ken@optikos.net http://www.pcisys.net/~kscott

Thanks. I was aware of Samba, but not of the other.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Chuck Waggoner [waggoner at gis dot net]
Sent: Sunday, July 02, 2000 2:45 PM
To: Robert Bruce Thompson (E-mail)
Subject: IE on Win98

I've been running IE 5.01 since a few weeks after it came out, experiencing perhaps a half-dozen lockups since then. I operate as you do, with as many as 12 or more IE windows open at once--and other applications running in even more windows.

Since the upgrade to IE 5.01, I've never had an IE window lockup take out more than the one offending window. With IE 4 and 5.0, it used to take the whole system down, even though I had 'open each occasion as new process' checked.

Like others who must get work done, I don't have time for the OS holy wars, although I'm ready to switch to something demonstrably better at a moment's notice. But--regardless of what one thinks of Microsoft's attitude, pricing, or policies--their software truly does get better (and more friendly in terms of cross-integration) with each release. I get more done with fewer problems today than ever before. Except for specialized requirements, there's little to complain about in the office apps area, nowadays.

In fact, with MS desktop performance improving all the time, I'm beginning to wonder if Linux even has an opening into that market anymore. It certainly doesn't help that Linuxen in the most visible resources insist on using darts and arrows, instead of honey, to increase their fold.

Thanks.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Holden Aust [mailto:linuxenthusiast@postmaster.co.uk]
Sent: Sunday, July 02, 2000 7:54 PM
To: Bob Thompson
Subject: Some information for Steve Swickard on networking Linux & Macs & Windows PCs

For Steve Swickard, who was looking for information on networking PCs running a mixture of Linux, Windows, and Mac OSes, here are some suggestions:

I haven't personally tried to network Macs to a Linux/Windows network (I don't have any Macs), but it can be done and you may already have all the software you need.

Linux PCs can be configured to appear as Windows NT servers by using SAMBA, so setting up a Linux PC so that Windows PCs can see it and share files and printers is relatively easy. See [here] for links to lots of documentation, including books, on configuring SAMBA. Most Linux distributions install SAMBA as part of the install, so it may already be running on your Linux PCs.

For information on using an Appletalk network to connect Macs and Linux PCs, see [here] and the other networking HOWTOs at the Linux Documentation Project.

Linux PCs are seen by Macs on the network as Macs, so you can share files and printers.

You can also run Linux on most newer Macs, so that is another alternative.

By the way, if you haven't looked at Corel's distribution of Linux, which is based on Debian, I'd recommend it. It has a few rough edges, but there is an active support group called COLOS_Linux on www.egroups.com and it is one of the easiest to install (easier than Windows, as long as you have supported hardware). Comp*Useless has it on sale for "free" through the 4th of July, I think (i.e. $49.99 - $50 rebate). That package doesn't include the latest Word Perfect Office 2000 suite for Linux, which is a significant improvement over the Word Perfect 8 for Linux which comes with the version which is on sale.

Thanks.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Gary Mugford [mailto:mugford@aztec-net.com]
Sent: Sunday, July 02, 2000 11:12 PM
To: webmaster@ttgnet.com
Subject: Netscape, Partition Magic and WebCams

Robert,

I'm one of your Netscape-using readers and most of the poor dupes who I consult for use it too. Why? Trying to stay below the horizon of the virus writers out there. I'm not so naive as to believe Netscape is any more secure than IE5, despite the higher rate of 'patches' for the latter. I do believe the world is largely dismissing Netscape and the goofballs writing ratstuff out there just can't be bothered. As a result, most of my people use Netscape's browser and mail (sorry Tom). And largely, we have been successful in beating off the rats to this point. Not having Outlook, Outlook Express or WSH probably has SOMETHING to do with that.

I have Partition Magic up and running on Tookie, the Win2K machine with a non-responsive Creative WebCam Go. No amount of re-installing on Tookie would get the camera to work, although I now have a Spanish set of drivers that defy removing. So, after arduous attempts to get the PM 5.01 patch, it finally arrived on a disk to make everything better.

I installed the program, as well as Boot Magic. The interface is largely unchanged from earlier PM's I've used. So, I was able to get a free chunk from the end of the large F: partition that was 13 megs, back down to the front where it could be positioned for use as a Win98 partition. That worked well, although leaving the partition hidden proved less wise. That, and clicking off the BootMagic enabled box during one of my attempts to get more than just a Win2K window choice in the opening menu. Thanks to a series of bomb disks (PM, BM and Win98) and the usual fumbling around, I was actually able to get Windows 98 SE installed and BootMagic to appear and offer me a choice of either OS.

Alas, Win98 installed WITHOUT USB support and can't find the drivers anywhere to fix the problem. The Matrox G400 was also a mystery and there were PCI conflicts everywhere. I suspect the latter are solvable, but it might take some work to get the USB settings to match that of Win2K. My tech guy will take a look at it this week sometime, but I've already told him that he's due to win the camera of his dreams REAL SOON NOW and to shop for a good deal on 4 Logitech eyeballs. I'll format Tookie to the ground and set it up free of Creative stuff, other than the Live! sound card.

I'm going back to programming. This hardware stuff is just too hard.

Well, there's no reason to hamper yourself with Netscape Navigator and Mail just because you're concerned with security. The problem with IE5 isn't that it's inherently insecure. The problem is that Microsoft chooses installation defaults that are wide open. Same thing for Outlook. Going in and fixing the configuration takes literally five minutes or less, and you end up running IE5 and Outlook in a very secure mode.

In IE, choose Tools -- Internet Options and then click the Security tab. Highlight the Internet zone, click the Custom Level button, and disable everything. Do the same thing for the Restricted sites zone. Later you can go back and selectively enable the stuff in the Internet zone that you're willing to allow random Internet sites to have access to. For example, I've enabled non-persistent cookies in the Internet zone. At that point, IE5 is plenty secure. Then, fire up Outlook and choose Tools -- Options and click the Security tab. In the Secure Content section, set the Zone to Restricted sites. Click the Attachment Security button and make sure you're set for High security. Finally, get rid of Windows Scripting Host. In Win98, you can remove it from Control Panel Add/Remove Programs. In NT4 you have no such option. Instead, I simply located the two scripting exe files (I think they were named wscript.exe and cscript.exe) and deleted them. Everything continues to work fine, but scripts simply cannot run. IE5 and Outlook are now secure enough that you won't have any problems with content like Melissa or I Love You. 

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Mark Huth [mailto:mhuth@coldswim.com]
Sent: Monday, July 03, 2000 1:01 AM
To: webmaster@ttgnet.com
Subject: Follow on to your comparison between Microsoft/Apple

Just a comment about your experience with Microsoft and Apple. A number of years ago, I was working at the University of Washington on a cardiology database project with quite a large potential market. We'd managed to accumulate a number of fairly senior Boeing computer engineers who were working with me and mine on the project. We found that we needed about 30 computers with os and software development tools. I called IBM (OS/2 was then hot), Microsoft, Dec, and Apple and asked them what kind of a deal could we get.

Dec called me, but couldn't do anything except offer the existing university prices.

IBM sent three engineers to my office and interviewed me about the project. They offered me substantial hardware and software discounts. Very professional and very helpful.

Microsoft sent their medical project manager, two engineers, and a physician in their employ. They offered the development tools and the operating systems gratis, offered to assign an engineer to work with us, gave us access to their development team, and wonder of wonders they helped arrange the loan of 31 computers (one as a backup) by a local computer vendor. In addition, over the next several months they helped us with coding and one of their people got enthusiastic and joined the project part time.

Apple didn't answer phone calls, didn't answer email, and I've still not got any response to my letters. I did get some really cool advertising from them, though.

Now under which operating system did our project team develop software? What development tools did the Boeing engineers and our students work with?

Exactly. Microsoft infuriates me from time to time, but they are a class act and I admire them as a company. As I've said in these pages before, Microsoft is being punished for succeeding, and they earned every bit of that success by hard work.


12:00:  FedEx just showed up with an In Win FlexATX case designed to accept the Intel D810EMO desktop board. That Coke can isn't there for perspective. The relative size of the case is pretty obvious from the 5.25" drive bay at the top and the Plextor PlexWriter 12/10/32A CD-RW drive box sitting immediately behind the case. The Coke can is an anti-puppy measure. 

FlexATX-case.jpg (43013 bytes)

The case itself is attractive, and seems solid and well-constructed. There's a side-mounted exhaust fan cutout, and a more or less standard back panel (although with fewer ports than usual in the I/O shield and room for only three PCI slots). Other than the drive bay, power switch, and hard disk LED, the only feature on the front of the case is that little cutout at the bottom, which has a plastic cover that shields two front-mounted USB ports. This case appears perfect for building a FlexATX system, but I must make clear that Intel sent me this case directly because I wasn't able to find a FlexATX case for sale on the open market. You can buy In Win FlexATX cases, but only if you're willing to buy them in pallet quantities, at least for now. Until FlexATX cases become a widely-distributed consumer product, which I suspect will happen before long, the case will be the sticking point for home-built FlexATX systems. In other words, "Don't try this at home."  I'll keep an eye on the situation.

In the mean time, I plan to migrate the Intel D810EMO desktop board from its existing plywood test-bed chassis into the In Win case. I'll probably downgrade the processor as well. A small system like this doesn't need a fast Pentium III (there's a Pentium III/800 in it right now), and I might be tempting fate to run that powerful a processor in this small a system. Cooling appears adequate, but FlexATX is really intended for Celerons and slower Pentium III rather than the fastest processors currently available.

Someone mentioned a couple days ago that Smart & Friendly was bankrupt. I hadn't heard about that, but this confirms it:

-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Boatright [mailto:jboatright@kscable.com]
Sent: Monday, July 03, 2000 10:31 AM
To: webmaster@ttgnet.com
Subject: smat & friendly

from ziff davis news "The venerable storage vendor's assets were reportedly liquidated and the company ceased operations in May.

Longtime storage maker Smart and Friendly Corp. quietly went into bankruptcy and its assets were liquidated in mid-May, MacCentral sources have confirmed.

Two sources who asked their identities not be disclosed -- including a former employee -- confirmed Smart and Friendly ceased daily operations in late May after its assets were liquidated by Sanwa Bank California."

[story here]

That's a shame. I liked Smart & Friendly drives. Although they didn't manufacture their own drives, they chose superior mechanisms upon which to base their relabeled drives. I still have one or two running around here, although I've pretty much switched to Plextor drives for any serious system. I was going to head over and download all their most recent firmware updates and so on, but I see that the link to Tech Support is broken. There doesn't seem to be much prospect of it being fixed, so I guess all of us who bought Smart & Friendly drives are stuck with whatever firmware we have or can find on the Internet. Thanks for letting me know.

I checked my distribution server and found that I have a firmware update that I downloaded in mid-April. This is version 1.40 of the firmware for the Smart & Friendly SAF798 CD Speedwriter Plus (model CD-RW4224A). I see that what appears to be the same file is posted on the Verbatim Australia web site as well. In fact, that may be where I got it in the first place. They also have upgrade instructions posted. I won't post this firmware file on my site for download because I don't have the right to do so, but I will email a copy of it to anyone who needs it and can't get it elsewhere. That's a fine distinction, I know, but I don't think anyone could reasonably object to sharing the most recent firmware update for an orphaned drive. Firmware updates for other Smart & Friendly drives are also available on the Internet. Here's a good starting point.

 


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Tuesday, 4 July 2000

[Last Week] [Monday] [Tuesday] [Wednesday] [Thursday] [Friday] [Saturday] [Sunday] [Next Week]


Independence Day today, when those of us in the United States celebrate the Declaration of Independence. I always thought it was odd that we celebrate the day that the Founding Fathers told the Brits to take a hike rather than the day that Britain surrendered. The outcome was, after all, in some doubt for quite a while. So we celebrate the day that a few brave men told an obnoxious, overbearing government that they'd had enough. And now we have an obnoxious, overbearing government of our own. Quite ironic.

Thomas Jefferson, the fire-breathing revolutionary of the Founding Fathers, realized better than anyone that liberty is a fleeting thing. 

"God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. ... And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time that the people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure."

So it seems that we are now about 115 years overdue by Jefferson's yardstick. And I think he was right.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Barbara F. Thompson [mailto:barbara@ttgnet.com]
Sent: Monday, July 03, 2000 1:21 PM
To: Bob (E-mail)
Subject: airline humor

Occasionally, airline attendants make an effort to make the "in-flight safety lecture" and their other announcements a bit more entertaining. Here are some real examples that have been heard or reported:

1. From a Southwest Airlines employee: "There may be 50 ways to leave your lover, but there are only 4 ways out of this airplane."

2. Pilot: "Folks, we have reached our cruising altitude now, so I am going to switch the seat belt sign off. Feel free to move about as you wish, but please stay inside the plane till we land. It's a bit cold outside, and if you walk on the wings it affects the flight pattern."

3. After landing: "Thank you for flying Delta Business Express. We hope you enjoyed giving us the business as much as we enjoyed taking you for a ride."

4. As the plane landed and was coming to a stop at Reagan Washington National, a lone voice came over the loudspeaker: "Whoa, big fella. Whoa!"

5. After a particularly rough landing during thunderstorms in Memphis, a flight attendant on a Northwest flight announced: "Please take care when opening the overhead compartments because, after a landing like that, sure as heck everything has shifted."

6. From a Southwest Airlines employee: "Welcome aboard Southwest Flight XXX to YYY. To operate your seatbelt, insert the metal tab into the buckle, and pull tight. It works just like every other seatbelt and if you don't know how to operate one, you probably shouldn't be out in public unsupervised. In the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will descend from the ceiling. Stop screaming, grab the mask, and pull it over your face. If you have a small child traveling with you, secure your mask before assisting with theirs. If you are traveling with two small children, decide now which one you love more."

7. "Weather at our destination is 50 degrees with some broken clouds, but they'll try to have them fixed before we arrive. Thank you, and remember, nobody loves you or your money more than Southwest Airlines."

8. "Your seat cushions can be used for flotation. In the event of an emergency water landing, please take them with our compliments."

9. "As you exit the plane, please make sure to gather all of your belongings. Anything left behind will be distributed evenly among the flight attendants. Please do not leave children or spouses."

10. "Last one off the plane must clean it."

11. From the pilot during his welcome message: "We are pleased to have some of the best flight attendants in the industry. Unfortunately none of them are on this flight."

12. This was overheard on an American Airlines flight into Amarillo, Texas, on a particularly windy and bumpy day. During the final approach, the captain was really having to fight it. After an extremely hard landing, the flight attendant came on the PA and announced, "Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Amarillo. Please remain in your seats with your seatbelts fastened while the captain taxis what's left of our airplane to the gate!"

13. Another flight attendant's comment on a less than perfect landing: "We ask you to please remain seated as Captain Kangaroo bounces us to the terminal."

14. An airline pilot wrote that on this particular flight he had hammered his ship into the runway really hard. The airline had a policy which required the first officer to stand at the door while the passengers exited, smile, and give them a, "Thanks for flying XYZ airline." He said that in light of his bad landing, he had a hard time looking the passengers in the eye, thinking that someone would have a smart comment. Finally, everyone had gotten off except for this little old lady walking with a cane. She said, "Sonny, did we land or were we shot down?"

15. After a real crusher of a landing in Phoenix, the flight attendant got on the PA and said, "Ladies and gentlemen, please remain in your seats until Captain Crash and the crew have brought the aircraft to a screeching halt up against the gate. And, once the tire smoke has cleared and the warning bells are silenced, we'll open the door and you can pick your way through the wreckage to the terminal."

16. Part of a flight attendant's arrival announcement: "We'd like to thank you folks for flying with us today. And, the next time you get the insane urge to go blasting through the skies in a pressurized metal tube, we hope you'll think of us here at US Airways."

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Boatright [mailto:boatright@cjnetworks.com]
Sent: Monday, July 03, 2000 1:58 PM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: RE: smat & friendly

that works for me. I think you've got dns problems again.

Just a suggestion, but why not point your DNS to somthing OTHER than roadrunner. I use Pair's DNS and my local ISP cjnetworks.com....

C:\WINDOWS>ping tech.smartandfriendly.com

Pinging tech.smartandfriendly.com [204.140.231.242] with 32 bytes of data:

Reply from 204.140.231.242: bytes=32 time=73ms TTL=239
Reply from 204.140.231.242: bytes=32 time=77ms TTL=239
Reply from 204.140.231.242: bytes=32 time=75ms TTL=239
Reply from 204.140.231.242: bytes=32 time=75ms TTL=239

Ping statistics for 204.140.231.242:
Packets: Sent = 4, Received = 4, Lost = 0 (0% loss),

Approximate round trip times in milli-seconds:
Minimum = 73ms, Maximum = 77ms, Average = 75ms

Thanks. I still can't resolve the address, but I used the IP address, which works just fine. I'm not sure what the DNS problem is, but it seems to be a problem only with Smart & Friendly. This is very strange, because I had exactly the same problem a month or two ago, and I was on BellSouth then. Perhaps my own network has taken a dislike to Smart & Friendly? I don't know, but it's really, really strange.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Alan Kwok [mailto:linkset1@netvigator.com]
Sent: Monday, July 03, 2000 3:00 PM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: Give me a hand?

Dear Robert,

I have read your page about Promise FastTrak IDE RAID Controller. I have got one, but I don't a driver. Sound odd? Right, these controller is a modified one. How to say? This card was not origanally a FastTrak raid controller. It was an ordinary IDE66 controller. Someone has done a modification on it and made it become a RAID card. I need the driver to use it. Would you mind telling me where can I find one? Thanks in advance. Best regard!

Alan Kwok
linkset1@netvigator.com

Well, you could go over to the downloads area of the Promise web site, make sure the product is set to FastTrak66 (it is by default), and click the Search button. That'll display a list of utilities, drivers, and firmware updates for using the FastTrak66 card under various operating systems. But before you do that, be aware that you'd be breaking the law by stealing that software, which is licensed only for use with a FastTrak66 card, not for the hacked version that you have.

Also, do you really want to trust your data to a hacked card? I wouldn't.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Kendall Tull [mailto:kendallt@ppsl.co.tt]
Sent: Monday, July 03, 2000 3:34 PM
To: 'webmaster@ttgnet.com'
Subject: ATAPI Burners

I believe that ATAPi burners are ready for prime time. I have used an HP 8X drive with no problems for some time now and have only burned three coasters. Two were due to my error and the third was the result of a faulty source disc. All this while doing my normal routine including reading the Daynotes sites. I suspect the Plextor will meet your every expectation and needs.

You may be right, although the only ATAPI burner I've used to date that approaches SCSI in reliability is the Plextor PlexWriter 8/4/32A. If this Plextor PlexWriter 12/10/32A fulfills its promise, the BURN-proof technology should make it more reliable still. We'll see what happens.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Gary Mugford [mailto:mugford@aztec-net.com]
Sent: Monday, July 03, 2000 4:58 PM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: RE: Netscape, Partition Magic and WebCams

Robert,

I didn't explain myself very well. You're right in that IE5 can be made relatively secure at this point. My badly-made point is that the dirtbags out there are SPECIFICALLY looking at IE for as-yet-unfound security holes. And it's their interest in IE that prompts me to use something else.

Fact is, I use Eudora and XNews, not Netscape. But, I have to balance ease of use with the intelligence of those that would hire me as a consultant [G] and decided to stay within one product for everything for them. I choose Netscape, not for what's known, but because of the fear of the unknown.

If the security hounds would turn their attention to Linux or to the Mac, I'd probably adopt IE5/Outlook and not waste a second of thought. But as long as Chairman Bill draws the ire of these rats and stays squarely as the target, I'm going to keep out of site [G].

Good point. I've made the point before that software monoculture has risks similar to agriculture monoculture, and it's unquestionably true that the overwhelmingly dominant Microsoft applications are an attractive target for virus creators. Still, if you secure them properly you're at minimum risk.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----

From: Jonathan Sturm [mailto:jpsturm@dingoblue.net.au]

Sent: Monday, July 03, 2000 6:39 PM

To: jpsturm@dingoblue.net.au

Subject: MS break-up 'serious threat' to Linux firms

Interesting take

Yes, I read that yesterday and it does raise some interesting possibilities. As I mentioned the other day, if Microsoft ported a free version of IE to Linux, that'd be the death of Navigator and Opera on that platform. The same holds true for other Microsoft applications that an independent Microsoft applications company might port to Linux, although a commercial version of Microsoft Office for Linux would mainly be a threat to competing commercial office suites like ApplixWare and Corel rather than to the free StarOffice product. It brings to mind the old saying, "Be careful what you wish for..."

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Steve Swickard [mailto:stevephl@pcisys.net]
Sent: Tuesday, July 04, 2000 12:02 AM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: Re: NT/Linux/Mac Bashing a continuation

Robert,

Thanks for your very timely response to my e-mail this weekend. I am in total agreement with you concerning Apple and Linux bigots. I specially know about Apple because I once worked for them. The plant that I worked at (still do actually) was sold to another company in June of 96 to gain some quick cash, that they (Apple) were in desperate need of. I should say that for the most part back then working for Apple was a rewarding experience. They took pretty good care of their employee's. I found out we had been sold by watching the local evening news. Most of us felt that they should have been more up front and should have informed us earlier, but that is business.

I generally use windows 98 here for most of my work and feel comfortable with it. If Linux should prove to be a better OS, I will probably switch, depending of course on the availability of good software. For some applications I would have no problems buying the software if it is really productive and I like it over free software that might not be as robust or intuitive to use. I don't necessarily think that commercial software or companies that market it are bad or evil. It is great to have Linux and its host of free software a lot of which is very well written. The current Jihad going on between the different OS zealots is reminiscent of past battles in the mid 80's between, Atari, Commodore and Apple. Then as now it seemed that people in one camp would constantly belittle and attack the other OS's, to what end I never could figure out. One reason I quit reading computer Shopper back then. I grow tired of reading Mac Magazines with their incessant attacks and put downs of Microsoft and PC users. One wonders if they have even had any direct exposure to the PC or Windows. I buy a magazine for the information it contains, not for the personal attacks on others that do not use the same system. I do not use Windows NT/2000 here but I do not feel threatened because you do. If people put in as much effort and time into making their chosen OS a better platform, with great support as they do in their attacks on the "Other" OS's we might have something to talk about.

On the topic of professionalism. I have more then once read a review in a PC centric magazine like PC Mag on for instance a story on Laser Printers with an Apple laser printer thrown into the mix and receive a favorable review. Never have a read of Windows/PC magazines attacking the Mac. On the other hand you do not see that type of reporting in Mac centric Magazines, quite the opposite seems to be the case.

Thanks to your readership I now have several leads to pursue in my quest for networking dissimilar OS's here at home. I have setup NT 4 at work and found it to be a fairly easy OS to install. Right now I have no desire to spend that kind of cash to network my home. Linux seems the perfect solution, as well as providing me a learning experience that will benefit me at work :) I started out with RedHat 5.2 but didn't really do anything with it, or learn anything about Linux. I next went to Mandrake Linux 6.0 and started to learn something about Linux. I successfully downloaded and installed Mandrake 7.0. That installation was extremely successful and uneventful. I can easily recommend Linux Mandrake 7.0 or later.

I have of course heard of Samba, but not of netatalk. I am going to try and set this up this summer and see what happens. Should be interesting and educational.

Take care and thanks for putting in the work to keep your web site up and running, it has been inspirational and a source of great information. I look forward to reading your next book.

Steve Swickard
stevephl@pcisys.net

Thanks. I hadn't understood that you were talking about a home network, or I wouldn't have mentioned Windows NT Server on the basis of cost alone. But it appears that there are usable free solutions out there. Good luck with them.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Steven Gorsky [mailto:thetardis@geocities.com]
Sent: Tuesday, July 04, 2000 1:42 AM
To: webmaster@ttgnet.com
Subject: Your new Workstation

I wanted to let you know that you can use FAT32 when dual booting Win98SE and 2000. Windows 2000 doesn't give you the options of formatting with FAT32, but if you create your partitions and format using 98SE it will work. Be sure when installing 2000 not to let it reformat, and everything will be FAT32. This allows you to share the disk space between 98SE and 2000, and if anything happens to 2000 you can still replace files without any special utilities.

Thanks. I built a system a month or two back that triple-boots Windows 98SE, Windows NT 4 Workstation, and Windows 2000 Professional, using FAT16 on all three volumes. I hadn't thought about which filesystem(s) to use on my new main system. I suspect I'll create a 2 GB primary partition which will be C: under Windows 98. I'll probably devote the rest of the hard disk to a large NTFS partition for Windows 2000, with perhaps some disk space reserved for another partition to contain disk images of the first two. I keep F: reserved for my main network volume on all machines, and normally assign optical drives letters starting at R:, leaving D: and E: available for local resources. But you've given me something to think about. I may use FAT32, although I strongly prefer NTFS for robustness.

 


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Wednesday, 5 July 2000

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I just paid our cell phone bill, which raised my blood pressure yet again. Understand, we pay these folks nearly $50 every month, and typically use between 0 and 10 minutes of air time of the 2.5 hours of bundled airtime. Barbara was in Charlotte recently, and placed a two-minute phone call, for which they charged us nearly $5.00. That's $1.30 in airtime, $0.60 in long-distance charges, and nearly $3.00 for a roaming charge. All of this within their own network. Barbara says she doesn't want to give up the phones in case there's an emergency while she's on the road. But I suspect even if we dropped the service the phone would still work for dialing 911 and *HP (the Highway Patrol). It's not so much the amount of money involved as the fact that I hate being ripped off. 

It's a pity that the government ensured that there would never be any real competition in wireless phones in this country. Instead, they passed out licenses to steal, two per metro area. If anyone who wanted to could provide cell phone service, we'd see flat-rate service at probably $15/month with service available from any number of competitors. It is, after all, much cheaper to provide wireless service than wired service. Cells are cheap and there's plenty of spectrum available. But instead, the government stepped in and granted duopolies in each service area, guaranteeing that cell phone service would never be available at competitive prices. I hate the government.

Here are a few photographs I made yesterday:

barbara-family-pictures-kitchen-table-3.jpg (46238 bytes)

Barbara working on old family photos for her Fritchman genealogy project. She works surrounded by anti-puppy devices, also known as Coke cans, because Malcolm (our 9-month old Border Collie pup) eats anything he finds. The In Win FlexATX case is just visible to the right. 

 

Antec-SX1030-InWin-FlexATX-cases-2.jpg (44524 bytes)

And speaking of the FlexATX case, here's the manly Antec SX1030 case in which I will build my new personal system on the left, with the girlish In Win FlexATX case on the right. I told Barbara that the Antec was the case for my new main system, and asked her if she'd like the In Win case for her new main system. She was not amused.

[Note: The following image is 1280X960 and about a 386 KB download.]

general-motherboard-closeup-3.jpg (395154 bytes)

The more I use this Olympus D-400Z digital camera, the more I'm impressed with it. Here's a macro shot of a motherboard that shows the fine detail and depth of field that this camera is capable of. This image is not modified in any way. I took it straight from the camera and pasted it in here. This is all the more impressive, since this camera is now two generations out of date. If this is what one of their older cameras can do, I wonder what images from their current models look like. If you need a digital camera, get an Olympus. 

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Jonathan Hassell [mailto:hassell@hasselltech.net]
Sent: Tuesday, July 04, 2000 1:15 PM
To: Robert Bruce Thompson
Subject: kiwi

So now that you're building a new IDE system for your main use, to what kind of task will kiwi be assigned? The reason I ask is that I considered doing something similar earlier this year but realized that my system (dual PIII500s, similar to yours) was more than I could ever ask for. It seems a little overwhelming for a testbed system... :-)

Happy Fourth.

Jon

---
Jonathan Hassell
hassell@hasselltech.net
http://www.hasselltech.net

Dunno yet. I'll probably turn kiwi into my main Windows 2000 Server machine. It has 256 MB of RAM and more than 70 GB of LVD SCSI hard disk in it now, along with a DDS3 tape drive. I may pull one of the processors, since one Pentium III/550 is perfectly adequate for a server. On the other hand, I may leave it in. Alternatively, I suppose kiwi might become one hellacious Linux workstation.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: bilbrey@mta5.snfc21.pbi.net [mailto:bilbrey@mta5.snfc21.pbi.net] On Behalf Of Brian Bilbrey
Sent: Tuesday, July 04, 2000 2:07 PM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: Win2K & Fat32

Steven Gorsky wrote:

> ...Windows 2000 doesn't give you the options of formatting with FAT32,

Hmmm. I just installed Win2K yesterday, starting with a blank disk. At the formatting step, it asked me if I wanted NTFS or FAT32...

While I understand the robustness of NTFS, I can have read/write access to the data in my windows partitions while running Linux if I stay with FAT32. OTOH, running NTFS on an NT server, keeping my data on the server, and mounting the shares into my directory tree under both Linux and Win2K also functions more than acceptably at work.

.b
--
Brian P. Bilbrey :: bilbrey@orbdesigns.com :: http://www.orbdesigns.com
"I have a cunning plan, my lord..." "Shut up, Baldrick!" E. Blackadder

I thought I remembered being given the option of FAT32 when I installed Windows 2000 Professional, but I wasn't sure, so I didn't say anything. Perhaps Mr. Gorsky had an upgrade version and we were both using full versions or something.

 


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Thursday, 6 July 2000

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Thanks to everyone who responded concerning my outrage at being billed almost $5.00 for a 2-minute call on our cell phone. As a result of those messages I did some checking around. I think we'll end up going with AT&T Prepaid Wireless. I checked our cell phone bills, and Barbara and I used a total of less than three hours of airtime in the last 12 months. We paid nearly $600 to GTE Wireless during that time, for an effective per-minute rate of more than $3.00. I can get an AT&T Prepaid Wireless account with 90 minutes and a Nokia phone for $150. I can buy additional minutes at relatively high per-minute rates (e.g. 240 minutes for $100) but that time is good for six months. Longer actually, because each time I buy new minutes, not only are they good for the next six months, but any older minutes left unused are also bumped up to expire at the same time as the new minutes I just bought. So I'm ordering the phone today and canceling my account with GTE Wireless as soon as the new phone gets here.

Lots of strange Internet-related stuff in the morning paper this morning:

First, the US Postal Service wants to proceed with their cunning plan to assign an email address for everyone in the country. It will be the person's initials, followed by their 9-digit zipcode, followed by the last two letters of their house number. So, my new email address, for example, would be RBT27106294531@usps.com. Until we move to New Hampshire, that is, in which case it becomes something entirely different. This is a plan doomed to fail. Can you imagine the USPS successfully managing mail servers for a couple of hundred million people? I can't. 

Then there's spam. The USPS claims that they'll have stern anti-spam measures that will prevent us from being spammed. They do, of course, have the force of law behind them. But somehow I can't imagine that all the foreign spammers will suddenly decide to stop spamming just because the USPS says so. In fact, having printed my new address, I'm very likely to have spam waiting for me when the USPS finally gets around to implementing this scheme, which they admit will take years.

The USPS is hatching this cunning plan because their revenues from first-class mail are plummeting because of email, a phenomenon which is accelerating. So how will this plan counter this trend? Obviously it accomplishes nothing unless the USPS somehow charges for email, which just isn't going to work. It's a stupid plan, and a massive waste of money. But then, that's the USPS for you. I plan to write my congressman and demand that before the USPS be allowed to get into email services they first give up their legal monopoly on the delivery of first class mail.

Second, the state of North Carolina finally passed their new tax-grab law, whereby Internet vendors in other states must "voluntarily" collect North Carolina use tax or suffer the consequence, which is basically that companies that refuse to comply with North Carolina's demands are denied access to North Carolina courts for collecting debts. This law is prima facie unconstitutional on at least a couple of grounds. I expect that it will be challenged successfully. It also overlooks the obvious, which is that companies that do comply will be at a competitive disadvantage with companies that do not. I for one will simply refuse to deal with companies that attempt to collect taxes for North Carolina, and I suspect that most other buyers will do the same. 

I've already struck NECx off my list for just that reason. But NECx is strange anyway. Some months ago, I was talking on the phone one evening to Jerry Pournelle, who was building a new system. He asked where I bought stuff mail-order, and one of the places I mentioned was NECx. He attempted to order several components from NECx--a Tyan motherboard, a Celeron processor, a hard disk, and so on. NECx accepted his order for all but one of the components--I forget exactly which one it was, but I think it was the processor--and told him that they couldn't ship that component to California because of California tax laws. We both thought that was exceedingly odd, because there was nothing different about the problem component. I mean, how can it be okay to ship a motherboard and hard drive, but not a processor? They're all hardware, all are made by companies headquartered in California, and so on. Jerry struck NECx off his list as a result of that encounter.

Third, North Carolina has passed another law that, according to the Winston-Salem Journal, makes it a crime to "abuse, annoy, threaten, harass, or even embarrass someone using email." Talk about a law that's clearly unconstitutional. As usual, legislators are completely clueless when it comes to technology. (Well, they're completely clueless, full stop, but that's not the point). As it happens, I pop my mail from the mail.ttgnet.com server, which is physically located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. So, if someone sends an annoying email to me at my ttgnet.com address, does that qualify as a crime in North Carolina? And who determines what is abusive, annoying, harassing, and/or embarrassing? Me? What if I'm just grumpy and have no sense of humor? All of you readers better be very careful about what you say in any email you send me, because I will be taking names and reporting annoying email to the email police. And don't even think about embarrassing me.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Richard Micko [mailto:rmicko@clipperinc.com]
Sent: Wednesday, July 05, 2000 9:01 AM
To: webmaster@ttgnet.com
Subject: What happened to the founding fathers?

Mr. Thompson:

Regarding the veracity of David Silvis' email about the signers of the Declaration of Independence. I was telling my wife about the email yesterday and she informed me that she had read it in Dear Abby or Ann Landers in our morning paper. I was able to verify that the email message and the column were the same. I'm sure the facts could still be wrong, but I would imagine it's probably right.

Thank you for your courtesy,

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

Thanks. I've removed it. I didn't realize it was copyrighted material.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: CheesmanB@stentor.ca [mailto:CheesmanB@stentor.ca]
Sent: Wednesday, July 05, 2000 1:21 PM
To: webmaster@ttgnet.com
Subject: Olympus Digital Camera

Robert:

I'm a relatively new reader of your site - I found it when Jerry Pournelle went away and you added pointers to here and to Daynotes. I especially enjoy your B.C. stories - we formerly had Irish Wolfhounds, but are currently making do with a Jack Russell Terrorist, a German Shepherd/Brittany Spaniel cross (just turned 1) and a female Border Collie cross (presumably with a German Shepherd, given the colouring).

Re the camera: We recently received an Olympus 2020Z digital camera (2Mpixels) and absolutely love it. The quality is amazing (currently shooting SQ quality with some JPEG compression - at best quality (TIFF), you can only fit one picture on an 8Mb memory card.). It'll even do 15 second QuickTime movies. And, of course, it has now been superseded by the 3030Z (3Mpixels), which will do QuickTime with sound.

Brian Cheesman
cheesman@istar.ca

Thanks. I've not seen any of the 2- and 3-megapixel Olympus digital cameras, but I'll bet they're impressive. You might want to consider buying a 32 MB SmartMedia card. I use one in my D-400Z. It stores about 70 SHQ (1280X960) images, or something like 500 in SQ (640X480). I don't bother with the lower SQ and HQ modes any more. I just shoot everything at SHQ and resample them down with IrfanView if they're going up on the web site.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: David N. Reiss [mailto:dnr@frontiernet.net]
Sent: Thursday, July 06, 2000 1:29 AM
To: webmaster@ttgnet.com
Subject: Declaration of Independence

Robert,

You might want to view the following web page about that listing of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

I love this country I live in. It does upset me when people rewrite history to make a point. The fact that the point my be worth making is beside the point. Rewriting history for any purpose is wrong. If a point is wroth making, then it is possible to think of a way to make it without resorted to rewriting history.

Thanks,

-----
David N. Reiss dnr@frontiernet.net
Internet System Administrator 716-777-5636
East Coast Admin. Team www.frontiernet.net
Frontier Global Center www.globalcenter.com
A Global Crossing Company www.globalcrossing.com
A paranoid is someone who has all the facts at his disposal. - William Burroughs

Thanks. I'd already removed that material because someone pointed out that it came from a copyrighted source. But I'm not at all sure that the original material and the web page you mention are factually incompatible. In fact, many of the signers of the Declaration of Independence did suffer hardship, economic and otherwise, as a result of signing it.

 


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Friday, 7 July 2000

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Barbara claims that I'm slow to move on things, and she's right. But what I'm really slow to do is make up my mind about what I want to do. Once I've done that, I'm like a charging rhino. After I finished publishing the update yesterday, I ordered the AT&T Prepaid Wireless phone, cancelled the BellSouth.Net account, and cancelled one of our phone lines. As I was in a mood for action, it was fortunate that Barbara restrained me before I cancelled our newspaper (which I hate), all of our magazine subscriptions, and probably our electric and natural gas service as well.

We're down to only two phone lines now, from a high of seven. That was back in the days when I ran a BBS (bulletin board system). I started that one with two lines, and eventually got up to four. Seems strange thinking back to those days, not all that long ago, when the only way to build an on-line community was to pay for a bunch of phone lines. ExecPC, the largest BBS ever, had something like 1,000 phone lines at one point.

I almost cancelled our current cell phone account with GTE Wireless, but AT&T says the phone will take about four business days to arrive, so I figured I'd better keep the existing account until the new one is live. I also need to order some accessories, probably a spare NiMH battery and a cigarette-lighter charger. I see that Thomas Distributing sells NiMH batteries for the Nokia phone, and they're a lot cheaper than those AT&T offers. Probably better batteries, too, if my previous experiences with Thomas Distributing are any guide.

We're planning to move to New Hampshire sometime in the next year, so I'll hold on to our existing cell phones just in case we need them up there.

Work continues on my new main system, which I've named thoth. In ancient Egypt, Thoth was the god of--among other things--technical writing. I am not making this up. The new machine is currently sitting on the kitchen table. Barbara threatened to rest her cereal bowl on the motherboard this morning, so I suppose I should get thoth finished and out of there. Once it's done, it'll spend a month or more running various benchmarks with various processor speeds under Windows 98SE, Windows NT 4 Workstation, and Windows 2000 Professional. Once I'm finished doing that, I'll tear the disk drive down to bare metal and set it up as my primary workstation.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: CheesmanB@stentor.ca [mailto:CheesmanB@stentor.ca]
Sent: Thursday, July 06, 2000 9:16 AM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: RE: Olympus Digital Camera

Robert:

Yes. As soon as I can I do plan on getting at 32 (or maybe even a 64) MB SmartMedia card. The camera came with an 8MB, and I bought a 16MB when I saw it available. I gave my dad (whose gift it was) the camera to use at our wedding with the 16MB card; he took 32 shots and there were still 5 available - you get more pictures when shooting in the evening, I guess because of better compression.

Brian Cheesman
cheesman@istar.ca

Before you buy a 64 MB SmartMedia card, make sure your camera supports it. Some do, some don't. My Olympus D400-Z, for example, supports up to 32 MB SmartMedia cards, but won't use a 64 MB one. Also, it's probably worthwhile getting the Olympus-branded (CAMedia) card for your Olympus camera. I understand that they have some special capabilities that third-party SmartMedia cards do not. As far as image size, it's more likely that shots taken at night will have large areas of dark/black background, which is highly compressible. Good luck.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Tom Syroid [mailto:tom@syroidmanor.com]
Sent: Thursday, July 06, 2000 11:17 AM
To: Robert Bruce Thompson
Subject: New MS Rodents

Check out the reference to the Trackball Explorer...

Thanks. I have, I think, examples of all the current Microsoft mice. I love the IntelliEye products, because they have no roller ball. I've gone from having to clean my mouse literally every three or four days to never having to clean it at all. I'm glad to see that Microsoft is rolling out IntelliEye-based versions across their entire product line. They really are much better than the mechanical versions.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Bo Leuf [mailto:bo@leuf.com]
Sent: Thursday, July 06, 2000 5:12 PM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: phone rates

Cellular rates are a jungle. However, the best rates (for full coverage) I've seen so far around here run something like USD 10 per month, which sum all goes to prepaid minutes that can accumulate for the duration of the service until you use them up. Entry charge is about USD 100, including a Nokia GSM handset. Minimum subscription for that offer is 24 months with the operator. The minute rate varies depending on when you phone, but runs between the equivalent of 10-40 cents. This is still much more than plugged-in phone calls, but the differrence gets less all the time. Roaming has varying surcharges, depending on operator and where you go.

The other popular mobile option here has become the prepaid-card phone. Just pay for the handset and sign up -- no entry, no subscription fees, just the consumable: the card.

We have a handful of operators with national coverage, some however effectively rather limited to major urban areas. The big thing is of course that Europe has for some time had a fairly unified GSM system, and cellulars are rapidly moving from "hot" to "assume everyone has at least one". Public phones are vanishing fast.

Yep, that's exactly what I just signed up for. AT&T Prepaid Wireless bundles a Nokia phone and 90 minutes of airtime for $150. The have the same deal with an Ericsson phone for $100, but I felt more comfortable with Nokia. Airtime expires every six months unless you buy more airtime, at which point both the new airtime and the leftover airtime are set to expire six months from when you buy the new airtime. There's no monthly charge or activation fee, so all I pay for is actual airtime used. The per-minute rate varies from pretty high (30 minutes for $25) to pretty reasonable (500 minutes for $180). I can use the phone anywhere that AT&T has service, which is pretty much anywhere I'm likely to be. There are no roaming charges or long-distance charges. It's a horrible deal for people who use their phones a lot, but it's the best deal I found for people like me who don't use their phones much.

 


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Saturday, 8 July 2000

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Yesterday was one of those days when nothing went right. In the morning, I built my new main system, thoth, and planned to spend some quality time with it getting it set up to run benchmark tests, play with the new Plextor 12/10/32A IDE burner, and so on. When I fired up thoth for the first time, nothing happened. No video, no attempt to hit the floppy drive, no beeps, no nothing. After an hour or so checking cables, swapping components, and doing everything else reasonable, I concluded that the Intel D815EEA Easton motherboard was dead. It acted like it had no BIOS, and that's a distinct possibility. This is a pre-production engineering sample, and it appears to have been used by others before I got it. My guess is that one of those other reviewers attempted to update the BIOS, killed the motherboard, and quietly sent it back to Intel without telling them what had happened. I have mail in to my motherboard contact at Intel, so we'll see what happens.

Then I decided to play around a bit with a program called Nero (burning ROM), an alternative to Adaptec's Easy CD Creator. My own experiences with trying to get Easy CD running under Windows 2000 parallel those that Jerry Pournelle has reported. It just doesn't work for me. I've tried it on three different systems, using three different CD burners. I've tried version 3.5C and version 4, including the latest version bundled with the Plextor 12/10/32A drive, and Easy CD simply doesn't work under Windows 2000. Some of my readers report that it works for them, and I believe them, but I have enough bad experiences with Easy CD under Windows 2000 that I can't recommend it. That meant I needed to find something that does work.

A week or so ago, I contacted Ahead Software, who make Nero, and asked them to send eval copies to Pournelle and me. They're doing so, but the software is being shipped from Germany, and will take a week or so to arrive here. In the mean time, I decided to download their demo version, which is actually the full software but with a timeout set for 7/31. Pournelle called me last night to complain about Easy CD and DirectCD, so I suggested that he download the Nero demo and try using it until the full copy arrived. You'll see a lot about it in his column next month.

To make a long story short, I found that Nero works just fine under Windows 2000 (as well as under Windows 98 and NT), but it doesn't play nice with DirectCD, at least on the two systems I tried it on with Windows 2000. Nero is working on an NT/2000 version of InCD (their competitor to DirectCD), but I have no idea when that will ship. In the mean time, Nero looks like a good solution under Windows 2000 for duping and mastering CDs.

Which brings up the subject of CD blanks. As I was doing all this experimenting, I found that I'd nearly run out of CD blanks, except for the spindle of Smart & Friendly 4X blanks. That wouldn't normally be a problem, except that these blanks, actually manufactured by ProDisc, are garbage. They generally work at 4X in the Smart & Friendly SAF798 burner, but I've yet to get them to work in any other burner, including 3 or 4 Plextor PlexWriters. It was the PlexWriter 12/10/32 that I wanted to work with, so using the S&F blanks wasn't an option. Not only do they generate coasters almost 100% of the time, they do so only at 4X.

So I went off in search of some decent CD blanks. I wanted a spindle of 50 or 100, ideally Kodak, which are the best blanks available. I would also have settled for blanks by Taiyo Yuden, whose best quality blanks are about as good as the Kodaks. I was about to order some Kodaks from Outpost.com when I decided to see what was available locally. I couldn't find any Kodak blanks locally, but Office Depot did list a spindle of 50 Verbatim blanks for $25 in their web catalog. That was the only reasonably priced blank they offered. Most of the other stuff was in packs of 5 or 10 at more than $1 each. I called the local Office Depot number and learned that they no longer carried those blanks. They offered me a spindle of 50 of their own in-house brand blanks for $30. I wouldn't touch those with the proverbial 10 foot pole. They also had spindles of 50 blanks by Memorex and Imation, both of whom make mediocre media in my opinion. And they wanted $50 for those.

So now I'm pretty much out of usable blanks. I guess I'll go ahead and order 50 or 100 Kodak blanks from Outpost.com tomorrow, which means I should have them by Tuesday.

All in all, a very frustrating day.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Evans.Paul@epamail.epa.gov [mailto:Evans.Paul@epamail.epa.gov]
Sent: Friday, July 07, 2000 8:30 AM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Cc: evanskc@juno.com
Subject: What happened to the founding fathers?

Here is a link to Rush Limbaugh's website:

His father gave that speech although Limbaugh states that the speech has not appeared in print before but I imagination that Dear Abby, etc. copied it from newspaper accounts of the original speech. The circulation of unattributed material is not new.

I enjoy your daynotes very much and read them first thing nearly every day, then Dr. Pournelle's.

Paul Evans

When free men and women cease to defend their freedom, they are slaves

Thanks. As a libertarian rather than a conservative, I've never seen or listened to Rush Limbaugh, or read any of his books. About all I know about him is that he's heavyset and liberals regard him as obnoxious. Perhaps I'll visit his site when I have a spare moment.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Jonathan Sturm [mailto:jpsturm@dingoblue.net.au]
Sent: Friday, July 07, 2000 8:02 PM
To: webmaster@ttgnet.com
Subject: Matrox G400 & Win2k

Finally after 10 weeks I got the Matrox G400 working with Win2k and ASUS K7V MoBo. Turns out that the VIA AGP driver that comes with Win2k is useless. Discovered this at Tom's Hardware where the stable version of viaagp.sys is available. One wonders why this information wasn't available from ASUS, Matrox, my hardware supplier or VIA! There are further words I could type but I assume you want to keep your website kid safe :-)

Congratulations. Now if only I could get my G400 working on my dual-processor system under Windows 2000 I'd be happy. But it's not worth bothering about. Windows 2000 doesn't buy me anything I care about, and this system is rock-solid under Windows NT 4 Workstation. So there's no reason to beat my head against the wall.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Chuck Waggoner [waggoner at gis dot net]
Sent: Friday, July 07, 2000 9:53 PM
To: Robert Bruce Thompson (E-mail)
Subject: New Hampshire, eh?

> We're planning to move to New Hampshire sometime in the next year<

That's surely because of their state motto, "Live Free or Die", which will be emblazoned on your New Hampshire license plate for all the world to see.

I hope with all those years in the South, that you haven't forgotten what living in the North is like: snow and cold.

We just got back from two weeks in Southern California around LA and San Diego, where my wife grew up, and it sure is a tempting alternative to winters in Boston. I think about Alex Pournelle's description of LA as a place "where there is no weather" every time I am prevented from my twice daily walks around our nearby pond by multiple inches of snow.

But it sure is hard to beat life in New England, if you like Old Man Winter.

On to another subject, and a couple of questions.

I have to come up with a computer for my son to take with him when he begins college late next month, and after reading your bit on the Intel D810EMO, I'm wondering if this isn't the system to build for him.

He needs no peripherals, as every student has Ethernet connected to massive support: printers centrally located in every dorm and multiple locations of computer labs with specialized printers, 10gb server space (more depending on whether your major is something like Art, Math, or Computer Science) which the University also recommends as a backup solution, and all-pervasive networking that the University claims precludes the need for even a Zip drive.

If the computer does not provide much gaming capability, so much the better (from my perspective). I've already got a Celeron, two hard drives (I'm a believer in putting swap and data files on a separate drive from the applications), and the I/O Magic DVD/CD-ROM drive Pournelle raves about, ready to drop in.

So my questions are: 1) is this board in production? or is it a pre-production evaluation unit that you have? 2) I'm assuming that since FlexATX cases are not available to ordinary folks just yet, that the thing will also fit into a standard ATX case.

Unless I'm missing something, this seems like the perfect solution for a network situation where no peripherals are required.

--Regards, Chuck

[PS. I'm attaching a text file of Mossberg's column about Bell Atlantic's Single-rate cell phone plan, in case you missed it. The plan is probably not available to you (until you're in NH), and it also looks more expensive than what you just ordered, but I thought you might be interested anyway.]

I grew up in a snow belt in northwestern Pennsylvania, so I'm used to snow, ice, and cold. Barbara and I will buy a home that has gas heat and a large pantry. We'll install a woodstove and keep a cord or two of wood out back. We both work at home, and if we need to get out, we both have 4X4s. If we get snowed in for a week or a month, we don't really care. I try to avoid walking at all costs, so that's not really an issue for me. Barbara did mention that she'd need to buy snowshoes for herself (and miniature sets of four for the dogs), but she doesn't mind. We'll probably put the hydraulics for a plow on one of our 4X4s, buy a snowblower, and perhaps snowmobile as well. As long as we have heat, food, water, books, pipe tobacco, and (I hope) a high-speed Internet connection, that's all that really matters.

As far as the D810EMO, the board I'm using came directly from Intel as an eval sample, but I'm told that the board is in production and available for purchase. Note that it is also known as the MO810E. From what you say, I agree that it would be a good choice. Like all ATX-family boards, you can install it in a larger case--full ATX or microATX. There are only two things to be aware of: first, the board has two standard back-panel USB ports, but it also has a header that provides two more USB ports, intended to be run to the front panel. If you use a standard ATX case, you'll need to run those ports to an expansion slot on the rear panel. Intel provides a port extender that connects to the USB header pins on the motherboard. Second, the board is designed to be used with an SFX power supply, which is basically a subset of an ATX power supply. Intel provides an adapter cable with the motherboard to allow it to be used with a standard ATX power supply.

Even if you can find a FlexATX case, I'm not sure you want to. This In Win FlexATX case is the most miserable thing I've ever worked with. It looked fine until I started to work with it, but it quickly became clear that using it is a pain in the posterior. Part of that is due to the FlexATX form factor itself. The case is the size of a large toaster, and there's just no room to work inside it. I have medium-size hands (just large enough to palm a basketball), and I have trouble working inside the case. The cables are short and the clearances are small. I think I'll stick this board in a standard ATX case for the extended testing I plan to do.

Thanks for the text file, but I'm committed to AT&T Prepaid Wireless, at least for now. We'll see what happens once we get to New Hampshire.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Gary Mugford [mailto:mugford@aztec-net.com]
Sent: Saturday, July 08, 2000 4:19 AM
To: webmaster@ttgnet.com
Subject: Update on the Cam scam

Robert,

As of tonight I have a little in-house network working, with the WebCam Go up and running on the new machine. As usual, there are caveats.

Just bringing any late comers to the party up to date ... I couldn't get the beta drivers for the Creative WebCamGo to work on a new AMD-K7/700 with Win2K Pro. So, the idea was to find away to add Win98SE to the machine after the fact. That was done with some sweat and toil by getting Partition Magic 5.01 to do the spade work creating the space needed for an alternative OS. I got W98 onto the partition and Boot Magic giving me the option of either or. But I didn't have the proper driver disks for various bits and pieces of OS, specifically the USB drivers and PCI drivers for the sound and video systems.

Those problems were resolved today. The wiring issue was corrected by a brand new direct computer to computer Level 5 cable. And we got the Win98 personality of Tookie (called Cammie) talking to the Win95B-based Dirty333 computer. We re-ran the install routine of the supplied WebCamGo CD and got the camera up and running successfully.

Ultimately, the question of whether you can retro-install Win98 onto a Win2K machine is a positive one. Not counting on the install Windows CD having everything you need is important. Having ALL the drivers for both OS's helps. A lot. Re-running install until it doesn't have to be installed any more finallly works.

Nirvana isn't quite here. I don't have the networking between Dirty333 and the Win2K personality of Tookie (called Tookie) working. The networking requires a password for \\Tookie\$IPC and the only idents I have on Tookie are Administrator and Gary Mugford. Tried changing Gary Mugford's password but that mostly succeeded in locking me out of Tookie. I assume a search through help will eventually resolve the situation.

The other downer? The quality of the WebCam. No better, probably a little worse than other eyeballs I've seen. The picture quality as a standalone snapshot taker? Hit and miss, almost always a miss in less than LOTSA light. No sense of the sharpness of the picture until you download to the computer later. So you frame the picture with as many lens settings as possible. For still pictures, doable. For one of a kind shots, a lottery ticket in every shot.

If I had it to do all over again, I'd buy a $70 eyeball and an instamatic to create pictures to scan in.

Regards from the North,

Gary

Hmm. I've never tried using a webcam. Now that I have a cable modem, perhaps I should install one and point it at my desk or something, setting it to take snapshots periodically and upload them to my web site. Then again, perhaps not...

 


wpoison

 

 

 

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Sunday, 9 July 2000

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I finally bit the bullet and stripped my secondary system down to bare metal. Windows 98SE was acting possessed, and I couldn't burn a CD to save my life, either with Easy CD or Nero. I suspect the problem was the other stuff that was on there: the HP Scanner stuff (which is unstable at the best of times), the UDF driver and DVDwrite! application for the DVD-RAM drive, the Onstream Echo software (which creates a virtual volume, and virtual volumes play Hobb with CD burning for some reason); and probably left-over remnants of DirectCD. I uninstalled all that stuff, but things didn't improve. So stripping down to bare metal seemed the best choice.

I'm going to move the HP 6200C scanner back to Barbara's office today and install it on her machine, which runs NT4 and has SCSI. The only thing that worries me is that I make it almost a religious issue not to mess with her system, both because it is her system and because it is the main data depository for our network. But it makes sense for her to have the scanner, and I plan to do a minimum install of just the software required to run the scanner itself.

The good news is that after I rebuilt my secondary system as a Win98SE box and installed Nero, I was able to burn CDs in the Smart & Friendly SAF798 CD SpeedWriter Plus without problem. I've only done a couple, and I used the S&F 4X discs which I'd had so many problems with before. So it may be that I was lucky and managed to get a couple of good blanks from a spindle of otherwise bad ones. But I suspect I'll find that those blanks are again reliable in the S&F drive, although they sure don't work reliably in any other burner I've used.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: flmcg [mailto:flmcg@cais.com]
Sent: Saturday, July 08, 2000 12:24 PM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: Onstream SC30

Robert:

I've been reading your daynotes for about 18 months and find there is much in them that I find useful; thank you for that. Not to put too much on you, I recently bought an Onstream SC30 ADR tape drive (SCSI), largely on the basis of your discussion of Onstream and Echo, and the fixes they claim to have made to the software. Well...I have the same problems of random slowdown and lockup that you did, and I am using the latest version of Echo (3.1.51). I use Windows 98SE, and Microsoft admits in a kb article on their site (search term ONSTREAM) that Onstream Echo has problems with ALL Windows programs, and these problems are attributable to Microsoft's own vcache.vxd file. They say there is a fix, but they don't provide it, except to refer you to their Product Support pages, which I find impenetrable. YOU also said there was a fix for this that was provided to you by Onstream. I am at my wit's end, because backups absolutely MUST be reliable. I know you are not a Windows 9x guy, but is there anything you can suggest?

Regards,

Larry McGinn
Arlington VA

That's been a while, but to the best of my recollection it was an updated version of Echo that fixed the problem for me. If you haven't done so already, see the Onstream support pages for firmware updates for your drive. Onstream updates the drive firmware frequently, and it's important to use the latest firmware when you update Echo.

I read the KB article that I think you're referring to (Q224073), and it does indeed attribute the problem to Microsoft's vcache.vxd file. When Microsoft mentions a patched file and says to contact support to get it, that generally means that it's not available for download, although it may sometimes be found by searching their ftp site. Your best bet is probably to go to their main support page and send email to tech support, explaining your problem and asking them to email you the patched file. 

Sorry you're having problems, but if it's any consolation, the problem is not limited to the Onstream drive. As Microsoft says at the bottom of the article, "This problem has been reported to occur with the following third-party products: Onstream 30-GB Digital Drive However, this problem is not caused by these products, and could also occur with other high-capacity tape backup hardware and backup software."

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Jonathan Sturm [mailto:jpsturm@dingoblue.net.au]
Sent: Saturday, July 08, 2000 1:59 PM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: RE: Matrox G400 & Win2k

Having gotten the G400 working with Win2k it's refusing to work with Win98. I've tried 2 Certified drivers and one beta driver. Fresh install for each attempt. Think I'll try OSR2 before giving up. This is only to be able to play Zork Grand Inquisitor. I now have everything of importance working on Win2k including Hollywood RealPlayer plus. That required setting PNP OS = No in the BIOS.

Beating one's head against a wall seems de rigeur in this business. Also running around in a circle flapping one's hands while chanting the word "wibble".

Congratulations. I'm quite disappointed in Matrox's drivers for the G400. In the past, I recommended Matrox strongly on the two-fold basis of high image quality and rock-solid drivers. The former is still true, but I've had nothing but problems with their W2K drivers. As you know but others may not, changing the PNP OS? setting in BIOS can sometimes help resolve problems. Basically, that setting determines how IRQ steering is handled. With PNP OS? set to "No", the BIOS handles juggling devices and the interrupts assigned to them. With it set to "Yes", Windows takes care of that juggling.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Jonathan Sturm [mailto:jpsturm@dingoblue.net.au]
Sent: Saturday, July 08, 2000 4:44 PM
To: webmaster@ttgnet.com
Subject: More on Matrox G400

Well, I don't know what it is, I've always had problems with Win98. Win95 OSR2 and the Matrox G400 get along fine and dandy. My son has minimal problems with Win98 though he used to use a Voodoo Banshee and lately an ASUS TNT2. I got by sort of with the Matrox Millenium II on Win98, but the G400 just makes blue screens whenever I try to open My Computer or Network Neighborhood.

Until recently, didn't know what you and Pournelle were talking about with EZ CD Creator on Win2k. It worked fine for me (ver 3.5c). Until I needed to make a 2nd CD straight away that is. My first coaster on this burner! Closing EZ CD Creator before burning another CD works fine; it just won't make more than one without needing a restart. Do not have this problem with Nero, so I'll be buying that RSN. It does a few extra useful things which was what led me to trial it in the first place.

It's worth noting that having EZ CD and Nero both installed on Win2k makes Win2k unstable! EZ CD should be uninstalled before installing Nero.

Last week I received a 3Com/US Robotics modem I'd ordered some weeks ago. Well, I got the box. It was empty! Discovered this week they are back ordered to the end of August. There are plenty of cheap, crappy modems available, but I hate cheap, crappy anything!

I've completely given up on Adaptec Easy CD on Windows 2000. I can't get it to work reliably, and sometimes I can't get it to work at all. In particular, also installing DirectCD seems a sure recipe for disaster. I've tried various versions and combinations on three different machines with three different CD burners, and the results are always awful. I'm giving up Easy CD altogether in favor of Nero. Unfortunately, the Nero folks aren't yet shipping their NT/2000 version of InCD (their DirectCD competitor), so I'll have to use DirectCD for doing CD-RW discs until InCD is available, at least on W2K. At least Easy CD and DirectCD seem to work fine on Windows 98 and NT. If you think installing both Easy CD and Nero makes W2K unstable, don't even think about installing Nero and DirectCD.

As far as the modem, I've had something similar happen once. I ordered an expansion card, I forget exactly what. The product showed up with the box shrink wrapped and to all appearances fresh from the factory. I opened the box and found that everything was in there except the card itself. Fortunately, this was a vendor with whom we were doing several thousand dollars of business a month, so when I told them they just shipped me a new one. But I wonder what would have happened if this was the first thing I'd ordered from that vendor.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Richard Sherburne Jr [mailto:ryszards@bellsouth.net]
Sent: Saturday, July 08, 2000 11:42 PM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: floppies and NH

Just when you think you have seen it all. Rule 1, when you think your NT machine is catatonic, do not first reach for the ERD and the CD, check your floppy drive! Otherwise you get the fun message that NTloader is missing, a chilling message when booting a computer! I learned this lesson today, apparently my toddlers managed to do what they had seen Daddy do and they put a floppy in the drive. On booting NT, with a blank floppy, you get that heart warming message, instead of what you should get "Dummy there is a floppy in the drive"

I write also to comment on your plans to remove north. Do not know if you have noticed, but if not do not go to NH expecting Yankee thrift and honesty. Seems the NH Supreme Court has been playing fast and loose for a while and have been caught w/ hands in the cookie jar. One justice has resigned, several more face impeachment criminal charges may be imminent. The fun details are on the NH legislature web site. Makes me feel good to know I do not live in the only place (Louisiana) with a reputation for political games. You might want to rethink the move north.

I also echo your affection for NERO, I have been using it w/ W2K for quite some time and have never made a coaster, even w/ my el cheapo memorex scsi CDRW.

Yes, I've had that happen to me more than once, and it does result in a sinking feeling. A message something like "Unable to boot from floppy disk" might actually prevent a heart attack or two world-wide every year.

As far as New Hampshire, I'm never surprised when government turns out to be corrupt. It's inherent. But in general New Hampshire's government is set up more intelligently than that of any other state, which is to say that it is set up intentionally to make it as hard as possible for them to accomplish anything. Barbara brought home a library book about the history and current status of New England states. The author, who is a raving liberal, absolutely hated New Hampshire. The book was written in the mid- to late 70s, so some of what he was complaining about may have changed. I hope not much. At least back then, New Hampshire had the third-largest legislative body in the English-speaking world (behind the US Congress and Britain's Parliament). It's so huge and unwieldy that they can't get anything done. Cheers. No one wants to serve on it, so they basically have to draft people in order to get the spots filled. Cheers again. They paid only $200 per session, which lasts two years. Cheers yet again. 

Who knows? I may run for election to the state legislature up there. I could do my bit to be obstructive and make sure that old laws and taxes were dumped and no new ones were passed. It's a filthy job, but someone has to do it. I'd probably run as a Republican and, once elected, convert to Libertarian. And I wouldn't take the $200.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Larry McGinn [mailto:larry@mcginn.org]
Sent: Sunday, July 09, 2000 11:06 AM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: RE: Onstream SC30

Robert:

Good points, all. Where you find the time for such personal (and personable) replies is beyond me, but I thank you for your gracious attention to my problem. I've done everything you suggest except ask Microsoft for the patched vcache.vxd file. That's next.

And oh, by the way, this former NH resident gives you every assurance you will like it there. I have family in Concord, Hudson, and in Winnisquam, and they wouldn't consider living anywhere else. You'll love it.

Best regards and thank you,

Thanks. It's good to hear someone who knows New Hampshire confirm our opinion. Barbara is doing serious heads-down research right now to figure out where in New Hampshire we want to live. We've eliminated the far southern portion (the "Boston suburbs") and pretty much eliminated the far north, simply on the basis of lack of Internet connectivity. But that leaves a very large part of the state for us to look at. So far, Barbara likes the area west of Winnipisaukee (Newfound Lake?) and the area on the Connecticut around Dartmouth. We want to find a home reasonably close to a small town, on a wooded lot of perhaps five acres (to give the dogs room to run). 

As usual, Barbara and I take a different approach. She's looking at literature from the various Chambers of Commerce, reading books, and so on. I regard choosing where to relocate as an immensely complex n-dimensional matrix problem. So between us we'll probably make a pretty good selection. We're going to spend a week in New Hampshire this fall reconnoitering, which should help greatly. The real estate agents are going to freak when they see our Excel spreadsheet, which has items down the left side and columns for Essential, Highly Desirable, Desirable, Minimum Acceptable, Don't Care, and Don't Want. At least they won't be able to say we aren't telling them what we want.


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