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Daynotes Journal

Week of 17 July 2000

Friday, 05 July 2002 08:11

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, 17 July 2000

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We're back from the Mystery Writers of America convention in Athens, Georgia. We got back yesterday afternoon, but Barbara and I were both completely exhausted after the drive back.

It was an interesting experience, although I don't know that I'd go to another one. There were hundreds of people there--authors, wannabe authors, editors, agents, publishers, and so on. Barbara attended as a vendor and got a chance to talk to quite a few authors and agents about her research services. I spent most of my time sitting in her booth, talking to the authors in the MWA booth next to ours. I learned a lot, although much of it merely confirmed what I suspected.

The main thing I learned is that there isn't much money in writing fiction, except for the tiny percentage of authors at the very top of the profession. Everything about that business is a struggle. If you're an unpublished author, it's hard to get an agent to look at your book. If you do get an agent, it's hard to get the book sold. If you do get the book sold, advances (so-called) are small. And the book is likely to sell only a few thousand hardback copies. Many authors I ran into have had half a dozen or more books published in hardback, and still haven't made a decent living from their writing. And those are the reasonably successful ones. It seems that in the fiction publishing business, literally 95% of the money goes to the top fraction of a percent of authors. So Patricia Cornwell can get a $24 million advance for two books, which doesn't leave much for the thousands of other authors writing similar books, many of which are actually better than Cornwell's.

I was also surprised by the lack of big-name authors at the convention. At SF conventions, the biggest names show up regularly. Pournelle, Niven, and the rest of the best-known SF authors are there rubbing shoulders with the wannabes, those who've just gotten their first books published, and the fans. Not so at Mystery conventions, apparently. There were plenty of names there I recognized, but none of those from the bestseller lists. It made me wonder if the big names consider all that beneath them now. If so, that's a shame. Granted, it must become tiring being followed around by groupies and idolized by wannabes at such functions, but I'd like to think that if I started writing fiction and became immensely successful I'd regard it as a duty to "pay forward" to those who were still struggling in the pits.

I took a few photos while I was there, although not nearly as many as I expected to. I meant to post a few of those, but this morning I realized that in the process of wiping out and rebuilding systems I'd deleted the drivers for the FlashPath floppy drive adapter from both systems where I had it installed. I'll try to track down the driver disk and get a couple of photos up tomorrow.


The Register reported Friday that the US is building a new aircraft carrier. The "information infrastructure" will be based on, get this, Windows 2000. But Mr. Gates is not satisfied with providing just the software. He's also involved in providing the hardware, which is to say the ship itself. Mr. Gates owns 8% of Newport News Shipbuilding, Inc., which is building the ship. I am not making any of this up. See the article. I can already visualize a scene in the CIC at some time in the near future:

Weps: "Captain! Multiple vipers inbound! Bearing 040 relative, range 42,000, speed 600 knots. Flight profile suggests shipkillers. Request weapons-free."

Capt: "Granted, Weps. Salvo two of the hot Standards on each of the inbounds with a 30 second spacing, and then get those tubes reloaded immediately. There may be more missiles inbound."

Weps: "Captain! The console refuses to launch Standards! The error message says the current rental term for this Microsoft Antimissile Server has expired, and that we need to contact Microsoft about extending our license. They do provide an 800 number, though." 

Capt: "Say status of the inbounds."

Weps: "Bearing 040 relative, range 26,000, speed 600 knots."

Capt: "Use the backup console. Salvo all of the hot Standards on those inbounds. Now!"

Weps: "Sorry captain. The backup console just blue screened on me. It says the program attempted to perform an illegal operation. Attempting reboot now."

Capt: "Never mind, Weps. By the time Windows 2000 boots, it'll be too late. Say status of the inbounds."

Weps: "Bearing 040 relative, range 14,000, speed 600 knots. Popup maneuver has commenced."

Capt: "Engage CIWS on automatic."

Weps: "Sorry, captain. Windows 2000 doesn't have a device driver for the Phalanx. But the Microsoft rep did promise one in the next Service Pack."

Capt: "Maneuvering, come right to 195 true, all ahead flank, and fire chaff."

Maneuvering: "Sorry, Captain. This release of the Microsoft Ship 2000 software doesn't support flank speed and we never did get the USB interface to those HP chaff launchers working under Windows 2000."

Capt: (later, sitting astride floating wreckage) "Weps, what was that you were telling me last week about Linux?"

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Jan Swijsen [mailto:qjsw@oce.nl]
Sent: Friday, July 14, 2000 10:09 AM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: Re: testing environmentalists

IBM used to do regression testing and probably they still do it sometimes. Most of the regression testing these days however is not done at the IBM premises but at the client sites. They do monitor their beta releases correctly though. But I still stand by my statement that businesses don't do regression testing as they should. It definitively is not just Microsoft doing the wrong moves. IBM is more an institution than a business.

Well, I hate the term 'ecologist'. We have a political party with the name 'Ecolo' and of course party members are ... yes, ecolo-gists. So I may be a biologist that studied paleo-ecology but please don't call me an ecologist. But apart from the term used to name that scum we are paying the same harp here.

BTW and "environmentalist scientist" could well be a scientist studying the flock behaviour of environmentalists. (probably trying to find a cure)

BTW2 an oxymoron is that an old, rusted AMD chip?? <g>

* * * * *

You're probably right. Doing regression testing correctly is expensive, both in terms of time and money. The former is probably the real reason why so much untested software is put on the market nowadays. Businesses believe that they can't afford the time to do things right.

As far as environmentalists, they are contemptible no matter what they're called. I remember thirty years ago in freshman organic chemistry lab I was synthesizing something. I can't remember what it was, but I do remember that I ended up with yield of 104%. Not good, but there it was. The stuff was pure, as indicated by its melting point. I just had considerably more of it than I should have had. I turned in those results, fully aware that I would receive a failing grade for that module. An "environmentalist scientist" would have checked the literature to determine the normal range of yields and reported a number that sounded reasonable. But then "environmentalist scientists" are fundamentally dishonest people, and certainly not scientists by any normal definition of that word.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Jonathan Sturm [mailto:jpsturm@dingoblue.net.au]
Sent: Saturday, July 15, 2000 10:13 AM
To: Robert Bruce Thompson
Subject:

Robert

You wrote: "As far as environmentalists, studying anything scientifically, I don't think so. The term "environmentalist scientist" is an oxymoron. Environmentalists have a political agenda. Scientists do not."

I can agree completely with the first two sentences. My parting of company with this crowd came when I was told that the end justified the means; lies were justifiable means of attaining the lofty end. I was trained to be a scientist and believe that truth is what we strive for and make of that what we will. I find the concept that "lies justify the end" difficult to distinguish from the regimes of Hitler and Stalin.

Your last sentence is a little more problematical. Making a career in science these days seems to *require* a political agenda. That is if you can justify your research in terms of global warming, you are in. If you can't, or it will disprove or cast doubt on the global warming lobby's claims, then you're out of luck! Witness the maiming of elephant seals in the Antarctic in the name of environmentalism and global warming research. That was an act of desperation and I cannot trust a desperado!

I'm sure you're right, but that doesn't change the fact that a scientist is someone who observes and reports the results of those observations. He doesn't change the data to fit his preconceived notions of what he expected to observe, nor does he discard inconvenient data and keep trying until he sees what he wants to see. (Although a real scientist may discard anomalous data which other observations show are almost certain to have been a result of experimental or observational error). 

Politics may indeed have a lot to do with what projects are funded and so on, but it should have no part in the experimental and reporting functions of a scientist. Anyone who allows such considerations to effect reported results is no scientist.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Michael A. Howard [mailto:mhoward@mahoward.com]
Sent: Sunday, July 16, 2000 9:13 PM
To: webmaster@ttgnet.com
Subject: Re: Caldera Open Linux

Robert

"My loudspeakers do not have an electronic volume control; just a virtual one"

Just read the above email and would like to point out that I don't think this is the fault of Linux.

(Note I use Linux and regard it as having a number of "problems", so this isn't the usual Linux diatribe)

In this case I think the blame must rest squarely with the hardware maker. Why can't they default the volume control to something other than full on? The ThinkPad of a colleague and my own Dell laptop suffer from the same fault as well.

Hmm. I think I disagree with that. Leaving aside the questionable inclusion of gratuitous sounds during installation, it seems to me that it's up to Linux as the new kid on the block to accommodate the existing state of hardware, not the converse.

 


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Tuesday, 18 July 2000

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If I have to travel, I hate going anywhere. That is, I want everything within easy walking distance of my hotel room. Ideally within the same building, because I hate to walk. So for me the setting of the Mystery Writers of America conference was perfect. We parked the Trooper in the deck, checked in, and never had to leave the building until we departed Sunday morning. Our room, the conference itself, and a pretty decent restaurant were all within the conference center.

When we checked in, I asked whether they had rooms where smoking was permitted, expecting them to say they didn't. I was surprised when the lady at the reception desk admitted they did. She said that, as a government owned facility, they were originally all non-smoking, but they found that that didn't work very well. People were putting damp towels under the doors, literally ripping out the smoke detectors, and so on. More power to them, I say. Even our president says it's okay if you don't inhale. So they put us on the fifth floor of the conference center hotel, which was the only floor with rooms where smoking was allowed.

MWA-room-view.jpg (33678 bytes)

View from our hotel window at the University of Georgia Conference Center.

 

MWA-auditorium.jpg (42787 bytes)

The auditorium where main events were held. It looked to me as though it held at least 500 people, and they filled it up for many of the main panel discussions and other events. There were also several smaller meeting rooms where other activities took place concurrently.

 

MWA-tables.jpg (77519 bytes)

General scene outside the auditorium. Barbara is at the table farthest from the camera.

 

MWA-beverly-nora.jpg (46398 bytes)

Beverly Connor (left) and Nora DeLoach, manning (personing?) the Mystery Writers of America table. Beverly writes the Lindsay Chamberlain series of mysteries, and Nora the Mama mysteries. Beverly is, like her protagonist, an archaeologist. Nora is, she tells me, the only author of "Black Cozies". Think of Agatha Christie with a Southern setting and African-American characters. Barbara found the Lindsay Chamberlain mystery series for me a couple of months ago, and I read all of them over a weekend. I wasn't familiar with Nora's work until the conference, but I bought some of them to bring home and read. I spent most of my time at the conference talking with one or both of these ladies.

 

MWA-charles-beverly.jpg (54645 bytes)

Beverly Connor with her husband, Dr. Charles Connor. Charles is the driving force behind the convention. He organizes it, lines up speakers, deals with the facilities people, solves the myriad problems that crop up, and so on. Better him than me.

 

MWA-barbara-2.jgp.jpg (40452 bytes)

Barbara at her table. 

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Jan Swijsen [mailto:qjsw@oce.nl]
Sent: Monday, July 17, 2000 9:28 AM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: Re: testing environmentalists

Regression testing : make sure the old bugs still work. 

It is not only regression testing that is being skipped. I had Jan around here just an hour ago (he is the functional manager and supposed to test all the changes before they are sent out). He had requested a change, I had applied it (and tested) and now he came asking how he could test it!! After a big sigh I explained the change and showed how he could test it. He looked at it, nodded and said "Yes, I see. It works." For him that is called testing.

>But then "environmentalist scientists" are fundamentally dishonest <strike>people</strike>, a....

Of course they wouldn't actually do the lab work so their papers would describe expected procedures producing correct results. Until they hit a teacher with an attitude. We had such one for physics. I still remember a physics exercise resulting in a negative mass. I was one of two kids who got the impossible answer, the others munched the formulas around till they got the answer they expected. All politically correct, which netted them a failing grade. Of course outside a school environment proving them wrong is not easy.

Reminds me of one of Heinlein's juveniles. The protagonist is going through a bunch of tests with a bunch of other prospective space cadets. One of those involved closing your eyes and dropping beans into a bottle on the floor. He finished up the test and noticed that many of the other prospective cadets had bottles with many beans in them. His had only a couple, so he hid the contents with his hand. Later, someone observes that it's not always obvious just what is being tested...

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Jonathan Sturm [mailto:jpsturm@DINGOBLUE.NET.AU]
Sent: Monday, July 17, 2000 12:30 PM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: RE:

This is more of a matter of what gets funded and what gets published. If the work is politically incorrect, that is contradictory to received wisdom, neither will happen. Einstein noted this problem, saying that had he been asked to peer review his own early papers, he would not have let them be published. It's happening in physiology, cosmology, climatology, agriculture...

Well, I never said it was *easy* being a scientist. Look what happened to Galileo. But someone who allows anything but observed data to determine the results he reports is not a scientist. I don't care if he has a doctorate in front of his name, wears a white coat, and works in a lab filled with millions of dollars worth of high-tech equipment. He's not a scientist.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Hellewell [mailto:rick.hellewell@cityofsacramento.org]
Sent: Monday, July 17, 2000 4:39 PM
To: webmaster@ttgnet.com
Subject: Writing Fiction Is the Easy Part

Hello, Robert:

Was interested in your tales of the Mystery Writers of America convention. As someone who is in the middle of writing a fiction book (about computers, since one should write about things one knows about), I was curious about the publishing part.

I suspect, from all I have read, that getting a book into print (or even into an agent's hand, let alone hoping that it will be read) is the hard part. So I've been interested in the various ways to electronically publish through the Web.

I was wondering about your thoughts on that? It would seem that e-publishing (don't you hate 'e' words?) will eventually be a viable way for the little guy to publish a book. I believe that the music industry is going that way (kicking and screaming all the way), with Napster, et. al., being an alternative way to publish music for the 'little guy'. And I believe I've seen some work on a similar Napster-like process for books. And then there is Gnutella, which I believe may make Napster obsolete.

Have you looked at any of the e-publishers? Should I 'roll my own' with a pay web site for my story (assuming that it is worth reading)? How about a 'daynotes gang' for aspiring book writers?

Enjoy your postings....

Rick Hellewell

Rick Hellewell
Advanced Solutions Group
Senior Network Dweeb
Public Works Dept
City of Sacramento
916-264-6846
rhellewell@cityofsacramento.org

The web, CD-ROM, and similar media are not a good choice for fiction books. No one sits down in front of his computer to read a novel. That is in the process of changing, though, with ebook readers and authoring systems. It's not here yet, but it's getting here. My guess is that in a year or two you'll be able to buy the Sony BookMan at Best Buy. Once that happens, ebook sales will take off, although traditional publishers will do their best to kill ebooks because ebooks render traditional publishers redundant. The other necessary element is micromoney, which may arrive in a usable form in the next couple of years. Once those two things come together, I think you'll see paperbacks will quickly become a niche product and hardbacks won't be far behind. If I had to guess, I'd say paperbacks will effectively disappear (like vinyl albums) by about 2010 and hardbacks by 2015. Printed books will still be published, but in limited editions for collectors. As far as doing a for-pay web site, don't bother. No one will pay.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Albert_Polito@countrywide.com
Sent: Monday, July 17, 2000 7:34 PM
To: webmaster@ttgnet.com
Subject: HP Scanjet

Greetings Robert:

While conducting a Google search for HP ScanJet 6200C drivers I found your website. I echo your sentiments about how lame HP is to charge for their drivers. I changed from 95 to NT and the software got lost at my company -- no one can find it.

Have you found a good driver/scanning software that is downloadable and free? Or do you know where I could find something compatible?

Thank you very much,

No, I haven't found anything, but I really haven't been looking very hard. There are several third-party scanning applicationst that support the HP scanner, although none I have seen are free. You might try visiting the HP web site. They do make the Windows 98/NT scanner application available for download, or at least I think they do.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Gary Mugford [mailto:mugford@aztec-net.com]
Sent: Tuesday, July 18, 2000 2:46 AM
To: webmaster@ttgnet.com
Subject: Books and Living Wages

Robert,

The problem making a living writing books is not limited to Mystery fiction. I've had some adventures in publishing land (I'm a lapsed sportswriter).

At the time of my heaviest involvement four years ago, I was told that excepting salaried employees, that there were less than 100 people making above sustenance wages in Canada writing for that living. Eugenia Last (the successor to Jeanne Dixon) is a friend of mine from radio days and I've been her computer consultant for more than a decade. (No, I don't believe in Astrology, but she has the right to her beliefs). I designed and laid out each of her "very successful" year books for most of the nineties. The financial rewards would NOT have merited doing the books, had not they served as de facto advertising for the other parts of her money-making activities.

I twice approached her publishers with book proposals that got more serious consideration than just anything in over the transom. In each case, the publisher said they loved the proposal, but could not make money on the books, which were glorified picture books. The picture rights would have been prohibitive.

The cost of paper, the legal costs and the battle for display space and advertising dollars means ANY book is a likely failure. Then, after you have succeeded twice, ANYTHING you produce is likely to make money. Witness Cornwell, who's declined steadily since book two. The problem is getting that first lottery ticket and then not failing on sophomore effort.

Still, there are a few out there who continue to produce small press runs of several books and never get lottery-level recognition. Those are the folks who are the true writers. Forced by compulsions no non-writer can ever know, these unheralded souls write for the purest of motives. The desire NOT to go insane! The satisfaction of seeing their byline, seeing their words in indelible ink on pages in books to be shown to any and to all, is a VERY satisfying feeling.

But money would be nice, too [G].

I know you're right, because several of the authors at the MWA convention told me that writing was for them a compulsion. I hold to Samuel Johnson's opinion, though. "No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money." There are exceptions, of course, such as this journal. But I certainly wouldn't be writing books if I couldn't make a living doing it.

 


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Wednesday, 19 July 2000

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I started feeling ill just before dinner last night, and I'm feeling worse this morning. I think I'll take some time off today.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Ron Knittle [mailto:starbird@warwick.net]
Sent: Tuesday, July 18, 2000 10:27 PM
To: topics@ttgnet.com
Subject: Adaptec software install problems

This is a long shot... I read the chain of notes re: writable cd drives after doing a Google search for "Adaptec software install problems". I just built a computer with it's only CD drive a CD-RW drive. It's a Creative unit 4x 2x 24x. It came with the Adaptec Easy CD Creator 4 bundled. I might be naive to think I could get away without a plain read only CD drive in this thing. I can't read the CD at all in the Creative CD-RW drive. It sits there and spins up, my hard drive light flashes, then is shuts down. loop to start of process... It won't spit the disk out unless I hold the eject button for a long time (sometimes 2 or 3 cycles). When it finally does spit it out, Windows 95 goes blue screen with an error message that the cd might need to be cleaned. I just received a replacement cd and it does the same thing. Tech assistance at Tiger Direct hasn't been able to help. I can read the Adaptec cd on my old Win3.11 box and on a different Win95 box. The drive seems to work just fine reading a whole raft of other install CD's Any suggestions? Thanks for any advice. Sorry if I'm posting to the wrong place. Ron (starbird@warwick.net)

-----Original Message-----
From: Ron Knittle [mailto:starbird@warwick.net]
Sent: Tuesday, July 18, 2000 10:55 PM
To: topics@ttgnet.com
Subject: Adaptec software install problems..

This is a long shot. I get here after doing a Google search for the above subject "Adaptec software install problems..." I read the series of notes regarding CD-RW drives and noticed the frequent references to the Adaptec software. I just built a new computer. I hoped that I could get away with using just a CD-rw drive, rather than adding a CD read only drive as well. I have finally gotten Win 95 installed, and installed many software packages reading the install CD's with this drive. The one CD I can't read is the Adaptec Easy CD Creator 4 install disk. When I place it in the CD-RW drive, it spins up, my hard drive light blinks, then it stops. Loop to begining of cycle. The tech assistance people at Tiger Direct have been patient, but even a replacement disk behaves the same way. I can read the Adaptec disk on my win3.11 box and another win95 box. I even transfered the entire contents from the win3.11 box to this computer by using laplink and a serial cable. I can only do a partial install that way. Your readers seem to be far more technically savvy than I am, so I'm wondering if anyone has any suggestions. Ron (starbird@warwick.net)

As far as Windows is concerned, a CD-RW drive is just another CD-ROM drive. It's the application software (Easy CD or whatever) that enables the writable functions of the drive. So, yes, you can indeed use a CD-RW drive as the only CD drive in your system. I have two or three systems like that here. The fact that the drive seems to dislike one particular disc is odd, but I've encountered things like that before. The fact that it also rejects another copy of the same disc is odder still. I suppose it's possible that the Adaptec CD has some form of copy protection that the drive doesn't like, or that there was a bad run of Adaptec CDs, but my guess is that the drive itself is the problem. I'd suggest returning the drive and replacing it with a Plextor.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Jan Swijsen [mailto:qjsw@oce.nl]
Sent: Wednesday, July 19, 2000 5:21 AM
To: Robert Bruce Thompson
Subject: scientists/Linux/e-books

This is a bit long, maybe you'd better cut something (or all) out before posting.

<quote>Anyone who allows such considerations to effect reported results is no scientist.</quote>

Ahum. Any one who fends off all such considerations will not be a scientist for long. Unless he already has a a nobel price on his belt.

The battle for funds is killing most research, and getting the funds is seldom a one shot action. I know a few fellow students that got funding and lost it before the project got finished. Projects typically run over three to six years but funding has to be requested and argued for yearly. Often, typically when the presented partial results don't fit the boards political (and I am not talking party-politics) inclination, the funding will not be renewed.

The result is of course a lot of lost money and effort, heaps of unprocessed and unsorted data and disillusioned young scientists. The best way to do the work is to produce 'correct' reports, however unscientific they may be, for the interim reviews and then, blow them all off the table with the real results once the research is actually finished. The problem with this is of course that the interim reports sometimes are picked up for true scientifically valid work. And not just by the press.

Most young scientist are too honnest/naive to play this game, only if they survive a few years in the treadmill do they get it.

I could have stayed at Univ. but not doing the research I wanted. I didn't want to become a pawn on the political chess board so I left.

<quote>Leaving aside the questionable inclusion of gratuitous sounds during installation, it seems to me that it's up to Linux as the new kid on the block to accommodate the existing state of hardware, not the converse. </quote>

I think you are looking at Linux from a slightly wrong angle in this. Linux is not a product.

You wouldn't say it is up to Windows to accommodate the hardware if a problem with the installation of some driver or package blows up your speakers. It would be up to the produces of the installation routine. Although I definitively wouldn't like speakers that can blow themselves up I do agree that the installation program should be more careful. (And it is not just the Caldera installed that blares out full power, ignoring the software setting of the volume.)

As I said Linux is not a product, Caldera OpenLinux is a product, RedHat Linux is another product, etc. ...

In this Linux is best seen as cars. 'Car' is not a product; Ford, GM, Mercedes etc make cars but you shouldn't blame 'cars' if any of these producers sell a crappy product.

<quote> No one sits down in front of his computer to read a novel. </quote>

Neither do people sit down in front of a computer to listen to music. You use the computer to download, sort and edit and save to CD/MP3-player. Only afterwards do you actually listen to the stuff. Same with books. You download it, print it on the computer. And read it somewhere else.

e-books are coming and micro money (hey, that sounds like my paycheque :-) ) is coming as well. So while there is no profit in publishing on the web now, I think starting now would be a good way to build up a presence. So I would advise Rick to get a site and push some short stories out. Not yet his full novel but a few fragments maybe You won't be making money on the short stories you publish but then the first short stories printed on paper wouldn't be making you money either.

--
Svenson.

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

The problems you mention are why little real science is being done nowadays in university or government settings. Most of the real science nowadays comes out of corporate R&D labs.

I didn't mean to blame Linux per se. You're right, of course, that it's the installer. I just used "Linux" as shorthand, because I have no idea who to blame for the installer.

 


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Thursday, 20 July 2000

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I'm feeling a bit better today, although still not 100%. As I commented yesterday in private mail, the bad thing about working at home is that when you're feeling ill you don't just take the day off to lie around and moan. There's no point to it. You might as well be feeling ill in your office as in your bedroom or den, so you just work anyway. So I did. I didn't get all that much done, a thousand words or so, but at least it was something.

Malcolm is getting craftier. Barbara usually goes to the gym before she goes to the grocery store. She keeps her gym stuff in a zippered L. L. Bean bag. In the past, every time she came home from the grocery store, she'd toss her bag on the basement floor while we brought the groceries in. But she'd never bother to zip the bag closed, leaving the contents accessible to Malcolm. At some point, Malcolm would come prancing through the room with one of her gloves in his mouth. He loves gloves. Yesterday, she thought she'd fool him, so she zipped the bag closed. A few minutes later, there came Malcolm, prancing through the room with her glove in his mouth. We ran out to the basement and found that Malcolm had unzipped the bag to get to her glove. We know it was him, because there were puppy saliva and teeth prints on the zipper tab. (Puppies don't understand forensics).

Then last evening after dinner Barbara was going to take Duncan along on a home visit with someone who wants to adopt one of the CBCR rescue Border Collies. In order to get out the door without Malcolm forcing his way through, she put Malcolm in my office with me, behind the baby gate that I use to protect my office against his pillaging. I have a bunch of test bed systems sitting under my credenza. Because it's easy to forget what I've put in each one, I affix a label to each. That label is a 4 X 4 inch (10 X 10 cm) piece of paper with short piece of Scotch tape at top and bottom securing it to the front of the machine. A typical label looks something like this:

Intel SE440BX2V motherboard
Intel Pentium III/733 Coppermine Slot 1 CPU
Crucial 64 MB PC100 SDRAM DIMM (X2)
ATI All-in-Wonder 128 video adapter
Intel Pro/100 Ethernet adapter
Seagate 20.4 GB Barracuda ATA II hard disk
Plextor 8/4/32A CD-RW drive

Malcolm pulled every one of those labels off, and he did it so quietly that I didn't know what he was doing until I heard the sound of him shredding one behind me.

We finally got the new cell phone the other day, nearly two weeks after ordering it. So much for AT&T's promise to deliver it within four business days of the order. It's small and cute, but it'll take a bit of getting used to. Our existing cell phones work normally. To place a call, you dial the number and press Send. If someone wants to call us, they dial the number of the cell phone. This new one is different. To place a call, you dial the number, including area code even for local calls, and press a specific key. You then wait a moment and press the same key again to send your account code (I hope it's encrypted). But this phone doesn't have its own phone number. If someone wants to call us, they dial an 800 number and then enter a PIN code. That seems a bit convoluted, but after thinking about it I believe there are some advantages to doing it that way. For one thing, if someone wants to call us, it doesn't matter where we are. They just dial the 800 number and PIN code and the network finds us wherever we are.

The other interesting thing about this technology is that it makes it possible to make completely untraceable phone calls. Not in our case, because we bought it with a credit card. But if I were a criminal and needed secure communications, I could simply walk into an AT&T Phone Center, buy one of these things for cash, and walk out with a phone that no one could trace to me. When I need to buy more minutes, I can do the same thing. Pay cash for whatever I need. And if the phone becomes "hot" there's no real problem. It only costs $150, so I can pitch it into the nearest dumpster and go buy another one. I would imagine that drug dealers and others are probably buying these phones in large numbers.

I finally got around to watching The Matrix on tape last night. I really don't see what all the blather was about. I almost gave it up after about 15 minutes, but decided to keep watching. I made it through the entire movie, but there wasn't much there. Just a bunch of ridiculous phony martial arts and shoot-'em-up. As Barbara said, it was basically a plot-less knock-off of Buffy/Angel. Give me Buffy/Angel any time. Special effects can't substitute for intelligent writing.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Jan Swijsen [mailto:qjsw@oce.nl]
Sent: Wednesday, July 19, 2000 9:46 AM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: Re: scientists/Linux/e-books

The best research is done in mixed projects. At universities but sponsored, at least partially, by business. Pure corporate labs often focus too much on results. Things that don't promise to result in financial profits are ruled out. And these days long term reseach is almost completely rejected. Why, for money spinners anything more than a few months is 'long term'.

I think the original mail mentioned Caldera.

Well, perhaps, but it seems to me that very little real research is coming out of universities these days, with a few notable exceptions. Most real research work in the last decade or more has come from places like Bell Labs, the various bio-tech companies, and so on.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: William C. Barbee, AIA [mailto:wcb@pop3.barbeepratte.com]
Sent: Wednesday, July 19, 2000 10:30 AM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: <no subject>

dear sir, i am having trouble learning how to burn a cd off of napster. I know that a cd- r cannot read an mp3 file but i don't know what to do. If you or anyone you know has an answer please email me as soon as possible at MAJORUT@aol.com.

thank you

MAJORUT@aol.com

Sorry, but I regard using Napster as theft, pure and simple. 

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Paul Robichaux [mailto:paul@robichaux.net]
Sent: Wednesday, July 19, 2000 4:38 PM
To: Bob Thompson
Subject: Reasons to be happy

1. Apple's new hardware, including a 2 x 500Mhz PowerPC box and a nifty new cube. See http://store.apple.com.

2. The International Defensive Pistol Association, which appears to have a neat competitive approach to combat shooting. http://www.idpa.com.

3. The chihuahua "will not play a prominent role in future ad campaigns" for Taco Bell. [here]

So, how're things with you? Hope you're feeling better.

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

Thanks. I'd seen the Apple thing over on The Register. Apparently, they can't get fast G4's, so they decided to use two slow ones instead. I spent some time over on the IDPA site. It looks pretty interesting, although I haven't done any serious combat pistol shooting for a lot of years. I did wonder about their power floors, though. They seem a bit light at 125,000 (bullet weight in grains X muzzle velocity in feet/sec) for most categories. I think something up around 180,000 would be a bit more realistic. (Say, a 230 grain hardball at 800 feet/sec, or .45 ACP class). As it is, they're allowing people using minor calibers like 9mm and .357 to compete on an equal footing with folks using major calibers like .45 ACP and .44 Special.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Ron Knittle [mailto:starbird@warwick.net]
Sent: Thursday, July 20, 2000 1:03 AM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: Re: Adaptec software install problems..

Robert, 

Thank you for your suggestions. If indeed the CD-RW drive is simply another CD-ROM drive, then my other windows95 box should behave in exactly the same manner in responding to some sort of copy protection. As far as I can tell, the Creative CD-RW drive seems to write correctly, and to read correctly as well. I have made backup CDs to this drive 2x now with no problems. One thing I did that might be strange is that my hard drive and this CD-RW are on one IDE cable (master and slave), and a zipdrive is on the second IDE cable *as slave* (no master). At some point tech guy suggested I move the CD-RW to the master on the second IDE port, and make the zip drive slave on the first IDE port (port 0). Could that be causing this wierd problem? I've tried to get through to the Adaptec tech assist, but they have a series of phone menues, and won't allow email without the appropriate product registration number, which I can't seem to get from them.

Not necessarily. Different CD drives react differently. I've had some copy-protected CDs that generated read errors on some drives and not on others. You definitely want to have your CD burner on a different channel than the source drive, although I can't imagine that having both on the same channel could cause the problems you're experiencing. Also, I've seen IDE ZIP drives cause some pretty strange problems, so it may be worth disconnecting the ZIP drive temporarily for troubleshooting. As far as trying to get Adaptec to help, don't waste your time. Your copy of Easy CD Creator is almost certainly an OEM copy bundled with the drive, which means that Adaptec won't talk to you because you didn't buy it from them. It's up to the company who bundled the software to support it, so you'll probably have to get Creative tech support to help you. I still think the drive is the problem, but it's tough to diagnose things from a distance.

 


wpoison

 

 

 

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Friday, 21 July 2000

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I have found one thing for which digital cameras truly suck. Shooting action. Actually I already knew that, but it didn't really strike home until I attempted to shoot some photos of Barbara and Malcolm playing with the hose. Barbara sprays her plants and stuff, and Malcolm chases the stream of water around. It's really entertaining, watching him spring into the air after it and sometimes literally turn backflips.

So I decided to try a few shots with the digital camera. The downfall of a digital camera for action shots is latency, the time between when you press the shutter release and when the picture is actually taken. The Olympus D-400Z is actually pretty good in that regard for a digital camera. As I recall, its latency is something under half a second. In half a second, Malcolm can move 10 or 15 feet easily, with a couple of changes of direction and perhaps a tumble or leap. So from the time I press the shutter release, I have to follow him with the lens and hope he's doing something interesting when the picture finally is taken.

In high school and college I used to shoot some sports photos for the teams. In high school I used an original Nikon F, and got very used to its latency. I could almost instinctively press the shutter release just a tiny fraction of a second before the peak of the action, and get it exactly right most of the time. Same thing when I went away to college and started using my Pentax Spotmatic. The latency was different between those two cameras, and I can't recall which was quicker. I probably couldn't have told you at the time. It was more a matter of instinct than intentional "leading" of the shot. But with a digital camera there's no hope of doing that. It's like the difference between pulling the trigger on a rifle and lighting the fuze on an old black powder cannon.

malcolm-hose-1.jpg (48385 bytes) malcolm-hose-2.jpg (59463 bytes) malcolm-hose-3.jpg (55692 bytes)

I cancelled my old cell-phone service yesterday. I was just in time, because the on-hold message told me that GTE Wireless was changing its name to something else. This would've been about the fourth name change I've been through in five years, and every time they screw things up. The last time the name was changed, they started charging me an extra $15 or so per month for bundled services which I never use, didn't ask for, and didn't want. Supposedly, those services were included with my plan, and weren't to be charged for separately. But I had to waste an hour or so getting them to stop billing me for something they shouldn't have been billing me for in the first place. At any rate, the lady I spoke with asked why I was dropping the service, so I told her. She commented that it seemed stupid for them to lose a customer of more than five years' standing because of a $5 charge. I agreed with her, and she offered to remove the charge. I explained that it was too late because I'd already signed up with a competing service. Unlike a rattlesnake, I don't give any warning when I'm about to bite.

In all fairness, I'm not too happy with AT&T either, but I'll live with them. In the first place, their web site promised I'd have the phone four business days after ordering. As it turned out, it took nearly two weeks. They finally sent me a message a day or two after the phone should have arrived to tell me that it was back-ordered. There's no excuse for that. They should have notified me when I ordered the phone on the web site, or at the very least by sending me email immediately to ask if I still wanted the phone.

Then yesterday I decided to play with the phone a bit and return the coupon to get the bundled 60-minute card that they advertised on the web site. The first problem was that I couldn't find any notation anywhere of my toll-free number, my extension, or my account number, all of which I needed to do anything. You'd think that stuff would be on the invoice, but it wasn't. There was an 800 number listed on the invoice for people who had problems to call. I called that, and they asked for my account number, which of course I didn't know. I explained the problem to the lady and she said that they only handled problems like dead phones or missing items in the shipment. Okay. She transferred me to some other 800 number, and I explained the situation yet again to the lady on that line. She told me to look for a tiny little piece of paper with two sticky labels on it, that was to have been in the plastic bag with the phone.

I looked, and there indeed was a tiny little piece of paper with two sticky labels on it, each about 1/2" by 3/4" (say, 1 X 2 cm). I hadn't noticed it originally, because it was face down in the bag, without the label side showing. I'd figured it was one of those "Inspected by #28" labels. Nope, that was a critical system component, without which you can't use the phone. Why would they not put that information on your invoice?

So at any rate, I commented to the lady that I needed that information to send in the coupon for the 60-minute refill card. She informed me that I might want to buy more time sooner than I'd get that card, because it would take 8 weeks to arrive! What a scam. Why would it take 8 weeks to arrive, unless it was a thinly veiled mechanism to get people to buy more time immediately? No mention of that timing issue on the web site, of course. They encourage people to assume that they'll be able to get that extra hour quickly, and then turn around and make them wait a couple of months for it. I consider that dishonest, but then all wireless phone companies are crooks. The trick is to find the least slimy one. So far, AT&T Prepaid Wireless seems a bit less slimy than GTE, but it's a close thing.

I decided that I needed to buy some accessories--cigarette lighter charger, case, perhaps a spare battery, etc. I looked on the AT&T site, and they had a selection of original Nokia accessories. Before I ordered anything, though, I thought I'd check the Nokia site. I'm glad I did. They sell the same stuff, but most items are considerably cheaper than what AT&T is charging. And by "considerably" I mean in some cases half. They have a cigarette lighter charger and leather sleeve deal on the Nokia site for $30, which is what AT&T charges for the charger by itself. And they include free shipping. So I decided to order that item. I clicked on the order button and got a "server error" page. How can you bring up an e-commerce site and return "server error" pages to people who are trying to order your products? Duh. Yesterday was not my day. 

Barbara wants to get our house ready to go on the market by the end of next month so that we can get the thing sold and move to New Hampshire quickly. I was thinking more in terms of putting the house on the market next spring and moving next summer, on the theory that houses sell better in the spring. But Barbara really wants to get us moved, so I'll do what I can to help.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Jan Swijsen [mailto:qjsw@oce.nl]
Sent: Thursday, July 20, 2000 10:33 AM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: Re: scientists/Linux/e-books

The best published reports come from companies indeed.

Lots of real research is done at universities, mostly by assistants and students. However most publications, except the very specialised ones, will only accept articles from professors or assitant-professors.

Students and most assistants typically work only few seasons on any one project. Most of these short term projects fizzle out in the sense that they do add some minute piece to the bigger puzzle that science is but not enough to merit a published report. A few (say one in a hundred) are interesting enough to produce a follow-on research project. Many of these follow-on projects are (partially) sponsored by businesses. Obviously, when the project looks like becoming something interesting the people working on it are easily hired away from the university.

Well that happens in the field of Biology anyway but I assume that other disciplines follow much the same course.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Phil Hough [mailto:phil4@compsoc.man.ac.uk]
Sent: Thursday, July 20, 2000 10:29 AM
To: webmaster@ttgnet.com
Subject: cell phones

"If someone wants to call us, they dial an 800 number and then enter a PIN code. That seems a bit convoluted, but after thinking about it I believe there are some advantages to doing it that way. For one thing, if someone wants to call us, it doesn't matter where we are. They just dial the 800 number and PIN code and the network finds us wherever we are."

How is that any different from a normal mobile phone? Someone dials my phone number: 07720 291723 and they get me where I am, up hill or down dale.

Am I being thick?

ATB.

Phil 

Phil Hough                      Out of memory.
E-mail: phil4@compsoc.man.ac.uk We wish to hold the whole sky,
Phone: 07720 291723             But we never will.
WWW: http://www.compsoc.man.ac.uk/~phil4

It doesn't work that way in the US with most cell-phone services. For example, my old cell-phone number was 336-403-3970. If I were at the library and Barbara wanted to call me from home, she'd just dial 403-3970 (no area code required). If my editor wanted to call me from Cambridge, Massachusetts, and he knew that I was out of the house running errands, he'd dial 336-403-3970. But that's only as long as I'm in my home area. Once I leave the Winston-Salem/Greensboro/High Point area, I'm "roaming", which is to say no longer in my home area. If I drove to Charlotte and Barbara wanted to call me, if she just dialed 403-3970 she'd get a voice message telling her that I was outside the service area or had my phone turned off, even though my phone was in fact turned on. 

If Barbara really needed to talk to me, she'd need to track down the access number for Charlotte so that she could tell the network that my phone was in that area rather than its home area. That's only for inbound calls, you understand. While I'm driving around Charlotte if I need to place a call, I just dial it normally--7 digits for a local call in Charlotte, or ten digits if I wanted to call home. In either case, I'd be charged a roaming fee for using the network outside my home area as well as per-minute airtime (bundled minutes are only usable in your home area, usually). In the second case, I'd also be charged a long distance fee by the minute. In fact, that's what finally broke the camel's back. After paying these folks nearly $600/year for five years and using an average of two or three hours a year of airtime, they charged Barbara almost $5 extra for placing a 2-minute call from Charlotte. That was $1.30 for two minutes of airtime, $0.30 long distance charge, and the rest as a "roaming charge".

If I'm driving around with the AT&T Prepaid Wireless phone, Barbara can just dial the 800 number and then the five-digit extension number. The voice menu tells you to please wait while it finds the phone. About two seconds later, it tells you it's connecting and the phone rings. It works the same way whether I'm driving around Winston-Salem or driving around up in New Hampshire, and it doesn't matter where the call is coming from. Wherever I am within the US, the network tracks me down and delivers the call to me.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: jauser3@mail1.wg.waii.com
Sent: Thursday, July 20, 2000 10:17 AM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: An old pentax camera

Dear Thompson,

I'm from jakarta indonesia. I has question about my camera. I had pentax ES-II, but I didn't know anything that camera. Did you ever heard pentax ES-II ? Would you like give the information of my pentax ? How is it good ?... Sorry with my stupid question...but I realy want to know history of pentax ES-II.

Thank's a lot for your attention.

regard,

Sumartono Muhaling

I've never used that model, although I believe it was also sold here in the US about 25 years ago. The best source of information I've found about the Pentax line of cameras and accessories is available at http://212.187.14.19/

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Phil Hough [mailto:phil4@compsoc.man.ac.uk]
Sent: Thursday, July 20, 2000 11:14 AM
To: Robert Bruce Thompson
Subject: RE: cell phones

On Thu, 20 Jul 2000, Robert Bruce Thompson wrote:

> It doesn't work that way in the US with most cell-phone services.

Ahhh... now I follow... That old way sounded a lot of hassle... no wonder the new way appeals (financial side apart). I guess the UK being so small, makes it all a lot simpler.

Cheers for taking the time to explain!

Don't get me wrong. Your "home" area depends on the plan you sign up for. There have been plans for years that allow you to operate within a very wide radius without roaming, say all of one state, the entire Southeastern US, or all of New England. But the US is a very large place. North Carolina, for example, is almost exactly the size of England, and North Carolina is not a large state. There have also been nationwide plans available for years that allow you to place or receive calls anywhere in the (sometimes Continental) US without paying roaming charges. Those were originally used mostly by corporations because they were very expensive ($300 or more per month), but much less expensive nationwide plans are now commonplace.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Chris Ward-Johnson [mailto:chriswj@mostxlnt.co.uk]
Sent: Thursday, July 20, 2000 10:13 AM
To: Robert Bruce Thompson (E-mail)
Subject: Pre-pay phones

They've had pre-pay phones in the UK for two or three years, four or five in other areas of Europe, and it's driven mobile phone ownership through the roof - over 52% of the entire population (kids included) now have mobile phones. In some Scandinavian countries it's nearer 75% and I've seen figures for Finland which suggest it'll be over 100% within a couple of years. Unlike you, most people won't do the math and work out the real cost of owning their phones - they carry on buying extra minutes at 50p or a pound a minute and don't work out how much cheaper it would be to have a 'proper' account, just because they think they can keep a better watch on what they're spending.

Of course, all the mobile phones here are now on the GSM standard which is gradually spreading through the US, and now you can even use your pre-pay telephone in foreign countries just like your 'regular' GSM phone; mine's a tri-band WAP-enabled phone which allows me - theoretically - to call and surf and e-mail from 109 countries around the world. Including, quite possibly, where you live [here] - interesting to not that there's a larger percentage of Azerbaijan covered than the US [here]

Is yours a GSM phone? Or one of those Mickey mouse systems you all invented for yourselves?

Interesting what you hypothecate about criminals using prepay; in fact, the biggest business for them in the UK is either outright stealing and using other people's or 'cloning' them, which was supposed to be impossible with the high level of encryption (sic) on GSM digital phones. That's what you get for using private encryption systems.

Regards

Chris Ward-Johnson
Chateau Keyboard - Computing at the Eating Edge
http://www.chateaukeyboard.com
Dr Keyboard - Computing Answers You Can Understand
http://www.drkeyboard.com
This e-mail was sent without attachments - if any arrive, please delete them and notify me.

Hmm. You're always trying to convince me that everything good was invented in Britain, when it's a well-known true fact that everything good (e.g. all variants of cell phones, including GSM) were in fact invented in the US. We don't use that girlish GSM stuff much here in the US. We leave that to you foreigners, many of whom wouldn't know a good cell-phone protocol if it bit 'em. Instead, we mostly use the manly TDMA and CDMA standards. This particular phone I just got supports TDMA 1900, TDMA 800, and analog. The laughably-named GSM (Global Standard for Mobiles) is in fact just "European TDMA". I'll go with the real IS-54/IS-136 TDMA standard instead of that hacked European version you folks like so much.

As far as costs, I figure with our usage pattern, it'll cost us about $10/month to have a cell phone, including the cost of amortizing the phone itself over three years or so. We did have two phones, but we really don't need two since Barbara and I both work at home. She gets out a lot more than I do, so she'll usually have it with her, but if I go somewhere I'll carry it. And if it turns out that we do need another, they're cheap enough. I can't imagine that our usage would increase to the point where it made sense to go with even a $20/month plan, but if it does we'll just change over.

As far as criminals using the phones, I'm not surprised that they're a popular target. Their very untraceability guarantees that. But I was thinking more in terms of using them for criminal purposes when you don't want to be traced. If I kidnapped someone, for example, and needed to call the victim's family to make ransom demands, one of these phones would be ideal. I'd just pick one up for cash in a large phone center and buy a few refill cards elsewhere. The authorities can, of course, track you down to a general area based on which cell you're using, but it doesn't go much further than that, at least for now. I understand that they're doing some work on triangulating using delta-T from multiple cells (in much the same way that GPS works), but that's a ways off. Once it happens, though, the authorities will be able to track your current location within at most a few yards. But for now pre-paid is an excellent way to place anonymous calls.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Ron Knittle [mailto:starbird@warwick.net]
Sent: Thursday, July 20, 2000 9:44 PM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: Re: Adaptec software install problems..

Robert,

Your suggestions sound very good. The zip drive does seem to work well, but it is the last unit added, and perhaps the least needed. It's also the piece that is connected in a manner that may be incorrect. It will have to wait until next week, but I will try the hardware things before I ask Creative.

I think the software came in a separate package, leading me to believe that perhaps the Tiger folks bundled it. Does anybody test this stuff before they ship it? If the software announced that "you are violating what we think is our copy protection" these things would be easier to diagnose.

I thought most software co's gave up on software copy protection. I sure hate it every time I find it. It almost ALWAY poses some additional hassle.

Thanks again for taking the time to answer me. I chased around your site a bit the other night. It looks very good.

I'm trying to do some interesting and troublesome things in my shop. I have 3 machine tools which are controlled by a IBM compatible PCs running a interface program under DOS. There is a card plugged into each motherboard that communicates with a box containing stepper motor driver boards etc. The software will not cooexist with any form of windows or network software. It does permit communication via serial port. The software that I use to create the command programs requires windows 95.

My current setup is kind of neat, but really not optimal. At the DOS box end I shut down the machine tool interface software ( which adds a difficulty with repeatability) and fire up the DOS INTERSRVR.EXE program. I can then read it's hard drive to move the command programs from WIN95 to DOS from the win 95 end, which has DOS INTERLNK.EXE in the autoexec.bat (or autoexec.dos, I don't remember which). I didn't dream this up. I tried the other way around with the win 95 box as the server end of the link, but couldn't make it work. I think this will work with a second machine tied to my second serial port. The third one requires a serial port card or something.

I have been told that they are working on a software update to fix a whole raft of problems with the interface software. That update is supposed to makes this easier, but I've been waiting 3 years now. In the meantime I'm trying to make money with a mickey mouse network.

I'm no computer geek, but I am determined and persistant. I thought you might be interested in a computer appliation which involves loud expensive crunchy noises when software crashes or I screw up.

I don't know for sure that the Easy CD disc is copy protected. In fact, I'd be a bit surprised if it were. As I said, my first guess is that there's a hardware problem with the drive itself, and my second is that they may have had a bad run of CDs. I've encountered pressed CDs more than once that would read in one drive and not in another, and that may be the case here. 

But copy protection for CDs is much more common than most people realize. It's still more common among game CDs, but I have encountered standard application CDs that use one or another form of copy protection. It's often something simple, like writing more than 650 MB to the CD (that doesn't work very well since 80-minute blanks became available) or placing huge phantom dummy files on the CD (the symptom of that is that when you attempt to write a disc image to your hard drive it ends up being 1 or 2 GB in size). Lately, some disc producers have started using more sophisticated commercial copy-protection schemes, some of which are difficult or impossible to break.

I haven't worked with any numeric control applications since probably 15 years ago, and that was on an original IBM PC/AT running DOS. It sounds like things haven't changed much since then. I'm surprised that your vendor hasn't migrated their NC application to Linux by now.

 


wpoison

 

 

 

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Saturday, 22 July 2000

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Barbara and I just got back from the veterinarian. Kerry is becoming incontinent, and our vet suggested regular injections of testosterone. Barbara picked up the drug and syringes at the drugstore yesterday, and we took Kerry out to see Sue this morning so that she could show us how to inject him. My attitude, of course, is that this would never have happened if they'd left him with his testicles as nature intended. The lack of those may also have much to do with the fact that he is a porker. He weighed 75 pounds this morning, which is 50% overweight. But then, eunuchs are known for being fat.

And we now have absolute evidence that we weren't imagining that our ten-month-old Border Collie pup, Malcolm, has taught himself to open zippers. We actually watched him do it yesterday. Barbara returned from the gym and put her (zipped) L. L. Bean gym bag down on the basement floor. With us standing there watching, Malcolm walked over to the bag, took the zipper tab in his mouth, unzipped the bag, stuck his snout in, and came back out with one of her gloves, which he loves to chew. We're thankful that Malcolm doesn't have opposable thumbs, or we'd be in real trouble. Thanks to television, nearly everyone has heard that Border Collies are bright, but you really have to live with one to appreciate just how smart they really are. In all honesty, I think they're probably comparable in intelligence to the smarter apes and monkeys. In fact, I'm not at all sure that a brilliant Border Collie isn't smarter than some humans. And I think that Malcolm is probably one of the brilliant ones. Barbara thinks he's smarter than Duncan, who is pretty smart himself, and she may well be right.

Big Brother is watching you now. If you haven't been keeping up to date on the US government's latest outrage, called Carnivore, please take a moment to learn something about it. A good start is to read what Cringely has written about Carnivore here and here. This needs to be stopped. I received the following message from a listserve I subscribe to, and am passing it on to my readers. I encourage all of my readers in the United States to take the actions this message suggests.

-----Original Message-----
From: owner-privacy-news@columbia.lp.org
Sent: Saturday, July 22, 2000 12:37 AM
To: privacy-news@columbia.lp.org
Subject: Urgent Action Item: Help Kill the Carnivore!

-----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE-----

URGENT ACTION ITEM! Congress agrees to hold hearing on Monday in response to public outrage over FBI's e-mail spy scheme

You are receiving this alert because you participated in DefendYourPrivacy.comís successful 1999 campaign against the FDICís proposed Know Your Customer bank spying regulation. If you do not want to receive further updates, please use the unsubscribe directions at the end of this message. 

* Immediate action required: Help us Kill the Carnivore!

On July 14 we issued a press release about an FBI cybersnooping device code-named Carnivore, which can scan millions of e-mails per second. Because Carnivore has unlimited power to spy on almost everyone with an e-mail account, it may be the biggest threat to your digital privacy ever.

Almost immediately after the existence of this project was disclosed in a July 11 Wall Street Journal article, public outrage began to mount -- and now Congress has been pressured into holding hearings on Carnivore.

To capitalize on Monday's hearing before a House Judiciary Committee panel, weíve launched a campaign to "Kill the Carnivore"!

Politicians on Capitol Hill may be planning to mollify the public by starting an "investigation" into the system, but that's not enough: We want to stop the Carnivore in its tracks and kill it -- before it devours your privacy.

Please read this e-mail and *IMMEDIATELY* take the action below. Then forward this e-mail to friends, and ask them to do the same.

BACKGROUND: Carnivore is a hardware-software device that the FBI secretly developed at its lab in Quantico, Va. Dubbed Carnivore because of its ability to find "the meat" among millions of e-mails, Carnivore scans every incoming and outgoing e-mail message on a network looking for telltale words or names, and saves those messages for later retrieval by law enforcement. Carnivore can also track instant messages, visits to websites, and Internet relay chat sessions.

The FBI admits that Carnivore will scan millions of e-mail messages from innocent people to find a tiny number of messages from people suspected of crimes. That's no different than if the FBI opened everyone's mail hoping to find a letter from a criminal, or listened in on everyone's phone calls just in case a crime was being discussed.

Though Carnivore's existence was just publicly revealed, the FBI has already installed the device at dozens of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) around the country, and claims it has used it "fewer than 50 times" so far. In many cases, the FBI keeps the device in a locked cage on the ISP's premises, with agents making daily visits to retrieve the captured data.

Many ISPs have refused to allow the FBI to install Carnivore, citing concerns that the privacy of all their customers could be violated. But earlier this year, a federal judge ruled against one such ISP, leaving it no choice but to allow the FBI access to its system.

Predictably, the FBI promises to limit surveillance to messages from suspected hackers, terrorists, or drug dealers. But considering that this is the same agency that quietly inserted "roving telephone tap" authority into federal law and illegally turned over confidential personnel files to the Clinton White House, you shouldn't be expected to trust it with your confidential e-mails.

But Carnivore is more than a threat to your ordinary e-mail correspondence -- it also gives government bureaucrats the ability to spy on your online banking transactions, because it has the ability to monitor all digital communications. The bottom line is that your privacy won't be protected as long as Carnivore is on the loose.

At this point, no legislation to eliminate Carnivore has been proposed. However, with your help we can change that. Keep in mind that we kicked off our campaign to kill the FDIC's "Know Your Customer" bank spy scheme last year before any legislation existed. But once we informed the public about this threat to their financial privacy, they swung into action and demanded an immediate end to the program. Americans flooded Capitol Hill with over 300,000 angry e-mails and phone calls, and within weeks, Know Your Customer was withdrawn.

We believe that once Americans learn about Carnivore's outrageous assault on their electronic privacy, they will demand legislation to abolish it as well.

That's why we're asking you to join the "Kill the Carnivore" campaign!

WHAT TO DO:

Call the Congressional switchboard, toll free, at 1-888-449-3511. If that number is busy try 202-225-3121 or 202-224-3121. Then ask to speak to the office of your Congressional representative. The switchboard is open 24 hours, and most House offices have voice mail, so please make the call as soon as you get this message.

WHAT TO SAY:

(1) Identify yourself and let them know you are a voter in their district. Leave your name, address, complete with ZIP code, and phone number. Please be brief, especially if you are leaving a message.

(2) Let them know that you're calling in response to Monday's hearing on the FBI's Carnivore e-mail spy scheme. (The hearing is being held by the House Judiciary Committee's subcommittee on the Constitution.) Tell them that Carnivore poses an immediate threat to your e-mail privacy and that you want it abolished. Specifically, ask your representative to personally sponsor or co-sponsor legislation to abolish the FBI's Carnivore program now! Insist that you do *not* want an investigation, or Congressional hearings, or a "blue ribbon" commission -- you want to Kill the Carnivore now!

(3) Ask them to write you a letter spelling out their position on Carnivore, and detailing what they intend to do.

One more thing: Please forward this e-mail to friends, and ask them to call their representative, too. Thank you for your help!

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DefendYourPrivacy.com is provided as a public service by the Libertarian Party. The site is currently being redesigned and will be relaunched next week.

For more information about the Libertarian Party, please visit our new website:

http://www.lp.org

TO UNSUBSCRIBE: mailto:privacy-news-request@columbia.lp.org?body=unsubscribe Or, if the above method doesn't work with your software, please send an e-mail FROM THE ACCOUNT SUBSCRIBED to the mailing list to: privacy-news-request@columbia.lp.org and in the body of the message type only the word "unsubscribe" (without the quotes)

IF YOU HAVE A QUESTION that requires an answer, YOU MUST mailto:distribution@defendyourprivacy.com Replies to the List Manager are automatically deleted.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Kerry Liles [mailto:Kerry.Liles@softwarespectrum.com]
Sent: Friday, July 21, 2000 9:49 AM
To: 'webmaster@ttgnet.com'
Subject: Hard wired fonts on Web Pages

Hi Robert. I recall a recent rant about web pages that have hard-wired font sizes and your dislike of that particular nuisance.

I just came across a tip in the latest daily newsletter from Lockergnome http://www.lockergnome.com - highly recommended by the way.

Here is the tip: in Internet Exploder, go to: Tools~ Internet Options~ Accessibility and you can tell IE to ignore page-specified colours, font styles and font sizes OR you can supply your own style sheet to override whatever the Web page thinks (sounds like too much work, but perhaps one could "borrow" a .css from a site that you already like...)

Just in case you didn't already know this. I must have looked at the Accessiility features once before, but I forgot about this angle.

Thanks. Yes, I've used that method myself, but the problem is that one has to delve deep into IE options to change it back and forth. That wouldn't be a problem, except that some sites display hideously if you override their font settings.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Chris Ward-Johnson [mailto:chriswj@mostxlnt.co.uk]
Sent: Friday, July 21, 2000 9:10 AM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: British inventions

I don't know about what people think in other countries, but in the UK we have a tendency to think that the British are very good at inventing things but very bad at cashing in on them and bringing products to market; faxes, for example - invented in Scotland a very long time ago - not long after the telegraph, if I remember correctly - but they were taken up and developed in Japan to make business communications easier. Those things we have tried to develop ourselves - hovercraft, supersonic airliners, computers - we've failed abysmally to do anything sensible with.

In the UK, we tend to think of Americans at being good at seizing an idea and marketing it to death, even if it's crap in the first place - certain computer software, for example.

Regards

Chris Ward-Johnson
Chateau Keyboard - Computing at the Eating Edge http://www.chateaukeyboard.com
Dr Keyboard - Computing Answers You Can Understand http://www.drkeyboard.com

This e-mail was sent without attachments - if any arrive, please delete them and notify me.

Well, a serious response, so I'll try to give a serious reply.

Britain has always had a core of bright, innovative people and that remains true today. Britain's heyday both in terms of innovation and manufacturing lasted from the beginning of the industrial revolution (say, the late 18th century) until perhaps 1870. During those decades, Britain was unchallenged in terms of industrial innovation and manufacturing, and was a significant player in science, although perhaps she took second place to Germany. Beginning in about 1870, the US matched and then exceeded Britain in both invention and manufacturing. By the time of World War I, the United States had become the dominant nation both in terms of invention and manufacturing, and had become a near second to Germany in pure scientific research. At that point, Britain was still a force to be reckoned with in invention (less so in manufacturing), but it was clear that the US would dominate in innovation and manufacturing. The picture was less clear as far as pure science, but the US was coming on strong.

During the 30's and 40's, Germany expelled most of their leading scientists, most of whom were Jews. The vast majority of those scientists settled in the US, so by the time WWII rolled around, the US was stronger by far scientifically than any other country. Britain still had a strong core of scientists (e.g. Watson-Watt and radar) and engineers (e.g. Frank Whittle and jet engines), but it lacked the resources, both human and materiel, to capitalize on that core. Britain was, for example, far ahead of either the US or Germany in developing nuclear weapons (the Tube Alloys project), but, realizing that they did not have the money or people to take the project any further they sent it part and parcel to the US, where we were able to devote the billions of dollars and thousands of scientists and engineers needed to finish the Manhattan Project.

Basically, Britain ate its seed corn to survive WWII and the US was the beneficiary of that. At the end of WWII, we imported thousands of German scientists and engineers and put them to work. At that point, the US was not just the strongest nation on earth in terms of scientific and engineering talent. The US had more scientific and engineering talent than every other nation on earth combined. And that largely remains true today.

Britain threw away its substance on two world wars. In the first, you lost literally an entire generation of your best and brightest, men who might have subsequently put Britain in a leading position in innovation and manufacturing. Then, twenty years later, you sent those men's sons to another war, where you lost nearly another generation of your best and brightest. No nation can do that once, let alone twice within a generation, and not expect to pay the price. After WWI, Britain sank to the status of a secondary power, despite your still-powerful navy. After WWII, Britain had shot its bolt, and became merely a friend and ally of the US.

After WWII, the Marshall Plan rebuilt Germany (and, to an extent, Japan), giving them the advantage of entirely new plant. Both of those countries were for several decades imitative of the US in terms of production and manufacturing. Both, however, got back on their feet in relatively short order, but Britain did not. For a couple of decades following WWII, the US was known for quality manufacturing, and Germany/Japan both did poor knockoffs, as did Britain. The difference is that both Germany and Japan recovered from that, whereas Britain never did. There's a reason why German and Japanese automobiles are regarded as top-quality, while British automobiles (excepting Rolls-Royce/Bentley) are a joke. The US went through a bad patch in terms of manufacturing quality (mostly due to government interference), but has effectively recovered from that. And, despite Pournelle's bitching, the fact is that the US manufactures more than any country on earth, including Japan and Germany. Our productivity is among the highest, and because of our large population our absolute output is huge.

In science, the situation was different. The US has dominated in pure science since the end of WWII, and that doesn't seem likely to change. Nearly all of the important scientific innovations have come from the US, and those that haven't have generally been adopted here and improved. That's likely to continue, because despite Pournelle's and my bitching, the fact is that the US turns out more top-notch scientists and engineers than any country on earth. And I'm not talking about the 99.9% that are really glorified bottle washers. I'm talking about the 0.1% who have the ability to invent new things that are truly useful. The transistor, for example, or any number of other fundamental innovations. Once we invent it, we have plenty of folks from 90.0% to 99.9% who will develop it, design real-world products based on it, and so on. And we then have the manufacturing capacity to flood the world with it. And, yes, we do have a lot of scummy marketers, too.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Chris Ward-Johnson [mailto:chriswj@mostxlnt.co.uk]
Sent: Friday, July 21, 2000 10:22 AM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: RE: British inventions

I think every country has more than its fair share of scummy marketeers - why can't anyone take a pace back and realise that those in marketing are the ones who failed to get into MBA school? And that those doing MBAs are the ones who were too stupid to be doctors, vets, engineers or scientists and not creative enough to be artists, musicians, writers or even, god help me, journalists?

They'll be the death of us all.

What you say about the British history of decline is spot on, but I may be the only British person who both acknowledges that and says 'so let's take our rightful place in the world'. There is, incredibly, a strong movement in the UK to move further away from Europe and become more isolationist; and that movement is getting stronger. Its only saving grace may be the urgings of your Senator Graham (Gram? something like that) for the UK or Britain (N. Ireland will join Eire and stay in Europe) to become part of the North American Free Trade Organisation (Association? NAFTA, yes, association).

The world is moving in two directions, smaller in terms of regional cultures and identities, smaller in terms of business and is being shrunk by communications technology. And bigger in terms of the trading blocs. But the British - actually, probably, the English - are insistent that they're still a Major World Power with their own nuclear arsenal, navy, army, air force and so on all ready to take on anyone and play on the big world stage with the big boys; and, tragically, successive British governments spend all their money propping up that idea instead of on something sensible. 10 years ago the government spent getting on for £10 billion in 24 hours trying to prop up the pound against the might of the world's foreign exchange traders - and, at the same time, couldn't afford to replace the slates on many school roofs.

When I first started corresponding with you, what, a year ago now? you said you'd turn me into a libertarian. I fear you may have been right.

Regards

Chris Ward-Johnson
Chateau Keyboard - Computing at the Eating Edge http://www.chateaukeyboard.com
Dr Keyboard - Computing Answers You Can Understand http://www.drkeyboard.com
This e-mail was sent without attachments - if any arrive, please delete them and notify me.

And you, of course, are an ťmigrť. I've always believed that there's something seriously wrong when people start leaving a country. That was true, for example, in the United States in the period following WWI when many of our creative people--artists, writers, and so on--left the US for France, and it has been true for Britain since WWII, to wit the "brain drain." Britain has a hard time holding on to its good people, and that's just going to become more pronounced as Britain continues its downward spiral.

I think you must be referring to Phil Gramm, who was a Democrat, then a Republican, but who is actually in many respects an unacknowledged libertarian. I hadn't heard about the proposal for Britain to join NAFTA, but it's probably not a bad idea. I've frequently said in the past that Britain should consider joining the US as the 51, 52, 53, and 54th states, and relocating the Royal Family to Disneyland. Everyone thinks I'm joking, but I'm entirely serious. The English Channel has always meant that Britain was not really a part of Europe, not so much in a physical sense but in terms of Britain's mindset. Britain has more in common with the US than she does with Europe, and I agree that it would make sense for her to become an integral part of the US bloc. While we're rearranging the world, we should probably also invite Canada in as the 55th, 56th... states. All except Quebec, of course. That we'd leave to France.

I suspect you eventually will become a libertarian. All libertarians I know (and I know quite a few) are extremely intelligent people. In fact, I'd guess that libertarians probably *average* about three standard deviations above the norm. There's an easy explanation for that, of course. The smarter one is, the less likely one is to allow morons or even normals to dictate how one lives. Smart people are used to making their own decisions, and to being right in the face of everyone telling them they're wrong. Smart people have little respect or consideration for decisions or rules made by non-smart people, particularly when those non-smart rules dictate how smart people should live and behave. 

The converse is not true. There are many intelligent people who are not libertarians. My father, for example, was a socialist for most of his life, as I suspect you are. Over years, I gradually convinced him that socialism is a bankrupt philosophy both theoretically and in practical terms. I eventually convinced him, and he voted Libertarian for the last several elections before his death. I still have hopes that I'll convince Pournelle.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Marcia Bilbrey [mailto:marcia@dutchgirl.net]
Sent: Friday, July 21, 2000 11:07 AM
To: webmaster@ttgnet.com
Cc: Brian Bilbrey
Subject: Digital Camera

I know what you mean about the digital camera-- on the shots that you do have on your website, the part of Malcolm that was moving is blurry. The same thing happened with our shots of the dancers from our vacation in Oregon (see here). Overall the shots are cleaner though so I'll live with that minute difference-- besides, you can still see what Malcolm is doing with the water and the hose enough to get a chuckle from it!

--
Best regards,
Marcia L. Bilbrey Do NOT start with me.
www.dutchgirl.net You will NOT win.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Mike Boyle [mailto:mboyle@toltbbs.com]
Sent: Friday, July 21, 2000 2:11 PM
To: webmaster@ttgnet.com
Subject:

Robert

I have an Olympus 340L. I think if you take a picture with the lcd on, the latency is a LOT less.

Mike Boyle
mboyle@buckeye-express.com

Thanks. I'll give that a try.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Bo Leuf [mailto:bo@leuf.com]
Sent: Saturday, July 22, 2000 7:02 AM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: mobile access

The system adopted in Europe was kind of aligned with the competing-operator system for land lines, so that mobile calls here work like this:

1. Each operator is assigned an areacode-like prefix, in Sweden 070x. This works like any other area code from the POV of anyone dialling, and signals the exchange that mobile rates apply. (It costs extra to phone a mobile from the fixed net.)

2. Each mobile subscriber is assigned a number from the number pool administered by that operator. Thus the entire subscriber number is provider-code + subscriber-number.

3. To place a call from a mobile to a fixed net phone, the mobile user must always dial the area code, even when inside the region for that area code.

4. To place a call to a mobile, a user always dials the provider's pseudo-areacode first.

The advantage of this, is that the physical location of a mobile user is transparent to anyone trying to reach that person. "Roaming" is generally applied first when the user leaves the domestic cell network (goes to another European country), but the calls are still made in the same way: provider + number. To call a subscriber of a provider from outside that provider's country, you additionally prefix the country code.

/ Bo
--
Bo Leuf
Leuf Consultancy
LeufCom -- http://www.leuf.com/

Thanks. It's interesting to learn how things work elsewhere.

 


wpoison

 

 

 

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Sunday, 23 July 2000

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Housecleaning and laundry today. Barbara planned to start cleaning yesterday afternoon and continue today, but she didn't get back home in time to start yesterday. That means that today will be grueling. I'm going to work on, gasp, cleaning up my office. The problem with that is what to do with stuff. I pick something up and make a decision: "throw it away" (~10%) or "do something with it" (~90%). It's the second that causes the problem. For the "do something with it" items, I end up moving everything from Point A to Point B. When I'm finished, Point A is clean, but Point B is stacked high with stuff. 

Perhaps I need to work on boosting the "throw it away" percentage. I mean, in practical terms I *know* that I don't need stuff like software that's two or three revisions out of date, but in emotional terms I hate to throw the stuff away. And there's really a kernel of practicality behind that. Not infrequently, for example, I've attempted to install something and found that I had an upgrade copy which insisted that I find the original full installation copy to prove that I was eligible to use the new version. But on balance it probably makes sense not to worry about that. I can almost always just call my vendor contact and get them to FedEx me a new full copy.

Then there are things like computer books. I have stacks of them that I'll never look at again, so perhaps I'll just box them up and donate them to the library. All except the O'Reilly books, of course. And then there are the author copies, of which I usually end up with at least a dozen copies left over. Perhaps I'll give a few of those to the local libraries as well. One type of books I will keep is the foreign translations. I have no real practical reason for wanting them, since I can't even read them, but they're too interesting to pitch. I have copies of my books in various languages. Some of them, like the German ones, I can actually more or less read. For others, such as Portuguese, Polish, Hungarian, Arabic, and Korean (?), I haven't a prayer. But those stay anyway.

So I'd better get to work.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Chuck Waggoner [waggoner at gis dot net]
Sent: Saturday, July 22, 2000 3:55 PM
To: Robert Bruce Thompson (E-mail)
Subject: FYI: CD ripping

For those diehard music aficionados who can't bear the thought of having their CD's run through the lossy compression method of .mp3, Radio 2000 Software--one of the companies selling computer automation equipment to radio stations--is now recommending QDesign's "MVP" product as an MPEG Layer II ripper for importing music into the Radio 2000 system. Formerly, the method used was to play the CD into their sound card in real time, in order to derive the Layer II music file for the computer.

Most MPEG players will handle Layer II files, as well as .mp3's.

QDesign is in BC Canada, and the best part is that the MVP software is free for 30 day trial, then only $19.95 to buy unlimited use.

Thanks. I've emailed them and asked them to send eval copies to Pournelle and me.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Jonathan Sturm [mailto:jpsturm@dingoblue.net.au]
Sent: Sunday, July 23, 2000 12:36 AM
To: Robert Bruce Thompson
Subject:

Robert Bruce Thompson wrote:

"I suspect you eventually will become a libertarian. All libertarians I know (and I know quite a few) are extremely intelligent people. In fact, I'd guess that libertarians probably *average* about three standard deviations above the norm. There's an easy explanation for that, of course. The smarter one is, the less likely one is to allow morons or even normals to dictate how one lives. Smart people are used to making their own decisions, and to being right in the face of everyone telling them they're wrong. Smart people have little respect or consideration for decisions or rules made by non-smart people, particularly when those non-smart rules dictate how smart people should live and behave.

The converse is not true. There are many intelligent people who are not libertarians. My father, for example, was a socialist for most of his life, as I suspect you are. Over years, I gradually convinced him that socialism is a bankrupt philosophy both theoretically and in practical terms. I eventually convinced him, and he voted Libertarian for the last several elections before his death. I still have hopes that I'll convince Pournelle."

This is the most interesting thing you've written among so many other interesting things. Flattering too <vbg>

I was schooled in England back in the 50s. My primary school reports had instead of marks, such as A, B, C, my "mental age". Since in some subjects my mental age increased by 2 years while my physical age incremented by only one year, I gained the impression that my intelligence was under my own control. I proved this to myself in secondary school. My marks (in percentage terms by now) in mathematics were woeful. I borrowed a couple of books on mathematics from the library that were self-paced learning where the next page you went to depended on the result of your answer to the questions on the current page. Programmed learning, I think it was called. My mathematics exam results went from c. 30% to 90+%.

Having made this wonderful discovery, I wanted to share it with everyone :-) This has been the underpinning of my life ever since. It's where the urge to write comes from. And why I enjoy training adults. And I too lost faith in socialism and discovered libertarianism.

Thanks. I suspect the life of libertarian is not an easy one in Australia.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Chris Ward-Johnson [mailto:chriswj@mostxlnt.co.uk]
Sent: Sunday, July 23, 2000 5:54 AM
To: webmaster@ttgnet.com
Cc: chriswj

Subject: Carnivore/RIP

-----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE----- Hash: SHA1

The US's Carnivore and the UK's RIP (Regulation of Investigatory Powers) efforts are one and the same thing, quite possibly linked into the Echelon system so any spook can monitor any kind of electronic communication anywhere in the world. They must be linked, I can't see that your spooks haven't conversed with the British/European spooks about accessing each others' systems and data.

I see a few consequences: the dumb criminals will, as always, be caught - they'd have been caught anyway or blown themselves up as they sat on the bus on the way to their targets; the clever criminals will find other ways to communicate, e.g. by using very strong PGPi encryption via e-mail servers in countries which have no black boxes on their servers; the regular punters will carry on as normal, neither knowing nor caring that their messages are being intercepted, read and laughed over by the world's police officers; and a few activists will get into trouble by including words like 'destroy' 'bomb' 'TNT' 'White House' 'Clinton' 'Blair' 'Kalashnikov' 'IRA' and so on in their PGPi-signed and/or - -encrypted messages.

Regards

Chris Ward-Johnson
Chateau Keyboard - Computing at the Eating Edge http://www.chateaukeyboard.com
Dr Keyboard - Computing Answers You Can Understand http://www.drkeyboard.com
This e-mail was sent without attachments - if any arrive, please delete them and notify me.

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Yep. And one solution is implied in your message. Widespread use of encryption by ordinary people. Right now, if you imagine an encrypted email message to be the equivalent of a snail-mail message in a red envelope, only one in a thousand or ten thousand messages uses that red envelope. That obviously raises a flag, allowing the various government agencies to focus their efforts on a tiny percentage of all email. If ordinary people started using encryption routinely, it'd be make life a lot more difficult for the government spies. 

That's assuming, of course, that they actually have to decrypt all this stuff. My guess is that there's a good chance that backdoors exist in such products as PGP, at least in version 2.6 and higher. Similarly, I have a sneaking suspicion that the NSA discovered how to factor large primes years ago. If that's the case, they can break any public-key encryption method in real-time at a trivial cost in computer resources. 

All of that said, anyone who values freedom should do everything he can to foil government spies, so that means we should all be using encryption for whatever it's worth. The problem, of course, is which encryption to use.

 


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