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Daynotes Journal

Week of 24 July 2000

Friday, 05 July 2002 08:16

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, 24 July 2000

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It was a beautiful day yesterday--cool, gray, and drizzling--and it looks as though today will be more of the same. It must be my Scots heritage or something, because I really much prefer gray, cloudy, wet days to bright, sunshiny days. I've never understood why so many people apparently enjoy hot weather and bright sun. It burns your skin, causes cancer, and damages your eyes. That's one of the reasons I look forward to moving to New Hampshire. It'll be nice to be able to have a fire going in the fireplace any time during three seasons, and sometimes on cool summer evenings for that matter. New Hampshire temperatures are what I consider reasonable, averaging about 70F (21C) in July and 22F (-6C) in January, which is comparable to the mountains of western North Carolina.

According to The Register, Microsoft is supposed to ship Windows 2000 Service Pack 1 today, although it may be a few more days before it is available for download. Regular readers of this page will recall that they were supposed to ship SP1 last Monday, but apparently something came up that made them decide not to do it. Speculation is that there was a security flaw that needed fixed, but Microsoft isn't saying. At least they're getting better. In the past, Microsoft would have shipped SP1 last Monday, discovered on Monday afternoon that it had serious bugs, taken it off their web site on Monday evening, and announced Tuesday morning that they'd ship SP1a Real Soon Now. Instead, it looks like we're going to get SP1a labeled as SP1. I still recommend that my readers not install this update for a week at the very least. Let other people get the arrows in their backs.

And speaking of Microsoft updates and back punctures, I downloaded IE 5.5 the other day. I'm wondering if it's worth installing. I understand there are some nice fixes and so forth in it, but I wonder if it's really worth the upgrade. Presumably, Microsoft has taken further steps with IE 5.5 to lock people into their way of doing things. The description on their site isn't particularly enlightening, so I'm wondering if any of my readers have installed the product and, if so, what they think of it. I should probably just install it on a scratch system and play with it a bit.

I've been complaining about Hewlett-Packard lately. They've gone from being a first-rate vendor to being, well, not on my recommended list. For more on HP, see this Ed Foster column from InfoWorld. Even good vendors make occasional mistakes. But with HP it seems that they haven't been able to do anything right lately. In the past, if I were looking to buy a product that HP made a version of, I'd have given them first consideration. Now I'm unlikely even to look at what they have to offer.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Jonathan Sturm [mailto:jpsturm@dingoblue.net.au]
Sent: Sunday, July 23, 2000 5:00 PM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: RE:

Living in Australia certainly has its compensations. Expatriate American Bill Bryson's book Down Under will explain if you are unaware of what an interesting place to live this is. I certainly would not willingly live anywhere else.

I'm sure it does. In fact, I considered emigrating there when I finished college 25 years ago.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Paul Edgerton [mailto:edgerton@quiknet.com]
Sent: Sunday, July 23, 2000 11:10 PM
To: webmaster@ttgnet.com
Subject: real-time factoring large primes, and an introduction from a fan

This is so easy, I can do it in my head. Of course, others have by now reminded you that prime numbers have only themselves and one as factors. I suspect you meant factoring large numbers. I wouldn't be at all surprised if NSA has a backdoor for the RSA/PGP encryption algorithm, but I would be very surprised if they can factor large numbers in real time.

I've been reading your daynotes for nearly two years. I like the combination of computer hardware, libertarian politics and living in the workplace (aka working at home). I'm a Systems Engineer for EDS, but I still couldn't explain precisely what that means. I keep it all in perspective through the practical expedient of traveling regularly with a dixieland band.

Anyway, thanks for doing what you do so that I (usually) don't have to. And good luck up nawth.

Paul Edgerton
Roseville, CA

Thanks for the kind words. As far as primes, my statement was unfortunate verbal shorthand. What I meant, of course, was "factoring the products of large primes", which is non-trivial as far as anyone except perhaps the NSA knows. As far as whether or not they can factor the products of large primes in real time, I wouldn't be surprised either way. If they've come up with a simple algorithm to do so so, they can. If they haven't, they can't. But if they have, the very existence of that algorithm would be the most closely guarded secret of all time, one that they would think nothing of killing to protect. And I suspect they keep a very close eye on any mathematician working in that area. Anyone who succeeded would not be a good candidate for life insurance.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Jeff [mailto:SVJeff@hotmail.com]
Sent: Monday, July 24, 2000 3:31 AM
To: webmaster@ttgnet.com
Subject: The NH move

Hi Robert.

Just returned from 3+ weeks away from Texas, the last week of which was at my folks' in Winston. (I must say, the temps in the 80s there were great in themselves - even better when I saw from the distance the beginnings of the 104+ temps here in Dallas.)

I just spent a while catching up, reading posts from you and Tom. (I can't get interested in Jerry's for some reason, and haven't tried the rest of the gang.)

It's not as tho you owe anyone an explanation, but it seemed to me as if the move idea came out of nowhere. Maybe I've accidentally missed a post or two, or maybe a week, but I was curious as to what would give you the desire to pick up and leave for NH. Did you guys pick the state at random? Naturally, you could write (and your wife could do research) from anywhere you have 'net access, but my curiosity got the better of me. (And as a native of the Twin City who'd love to go back, I can't see why anyone would want to leave <g>)

Thanks again for all the effort in keeping the site going.

Thanks for the kind words. I've actually wanted to move for years. I can't stand a lot of things about North Carolina, not least of which is its outrageous state income tax rate. But the real reason I want to move is that North Carolina in general and Winston-Salem in particular lives and dies on tobacco and textile manufacturing. Both of those are moribund, tobacco as a result of Clinton's attacks and textiles as a result of NAFTA. The local economy is still robust, but that's going to change as the effects of the disappearance of tobacco and textiles filter down. In ten years, I'm afraid Winston-Salem will be a depressed area. In twenty, I'm afraid it'll be a ghost town.

We picked New Hampshire based on a lot of things, including the absence of state sales and income taxes, the fact that personal freedom is still valued there more so than nearly anywhere else in the US, and the fact that Barbara and I both enjoy New England (including winter). Barbara is a Winston-Salem native, and her parents and sister live here, so the move is harder for her than for me. I waited until she brought up the idea of moving. Having made that decision, she is determined to get it done quickly. We're going up on a reconnoitering trip this fall, so it's still not 100% certain that we'll move there, but it is pretty likely.

 


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Tuesday, 25 July 2000

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Hideous wreck described in the paper this morning. A ten-wheel truck carrying auto parts blew a tire, crossed the Interstate 26 median, and slammed head-on into a Chevrolet Suburban SUV carrying a married couple, their six children, and two Russian exchange students. The truck driver, both parents, three of their own children, and one of the exchange students died instantly, and the remaining four children are injured, some critically. The Suburban was so badly damaged that rescuers couldn't tell which was the front end. Other than bus wrecks, that's the worst accident I remember reading about in years. I'm sure that someone will attempt to fix blame, but the fact is that no one did anything wrong. Everyone was wearing seat belts, and no one was driving recklessly. Sometimes horrible things just happen.

Pournelle complains from time to time about his experiences trying to buy stuff on the web, and I encountered more of the same yesterday. My needs were pretty simple. I wanted to buy one DDS (DAT) cleaning tape and one Travan cleaning tape. You'd think that's an order that I could have gotten filled by any number of on-line merchants. Not so. Most of the merchants I checked didn't carry one or the other (or both) of those products, which I found pretty strange. 

It's not as though I was being religious about brand names. I'd happily have taken cleaning tapes made by Seagate, Sony, Tecmar, or any number of other manufacturers. It wasn't a question of the merchants not carrying the brand I wanted. Many of them didn't carry anything at all. Some had one but not the other. Some claimed to have both, but one or the other was not in stock. 

Some merchants carried both products, but not in packages I wanted. For example, Travan cleaning tapes run about the same price as Travan data tapes--$30 or so. All I need is one, because I only run my Travan drive once a week, so it requires cleaning only every month or two. A cleaning tape good for 30 cleanings will last me the life of the drive, so I don't need a pack of five for $150, which is all that many merchants carry.

I did eventually find one merchant that claimed to have both products in stock, the Travan tape for $27 and the DDS tape for about $8. So I tried to order. I added the Travan tape to my shopping basket. So far, so good. I added the DDS tape to my shopping basket. It was added properly, but the Travan tape had gone missing. So I added the Travan tape again. It added, but the DDS tape was no longer in my basket. Okay, I thought perhaps this place required persistent cookies, so I added them (temporarily) to my IE Trusted Zone and tried again. Same thing. I suppose I could have entered two separate orders, but the vendor had a relatively high minimum shipping charge, and it seemed ridiculous to pay two shipping charges, particularly since that would have more than doubled the price of the DDS tape.

I eventually found another vendor that claimed to have both products in stock. Once again, I started the ordering process. This time, I was able to add one unit of each product to my shopping basket, but when I clicked on the button to continue the order the site returned a script error. That was the final straw. After wasting two hours, I finally just gave up. I have half a dozen tape drives installed around here, and more on the shelf. I'll just use a different tape drive until I can come up with some cleaning cartridges for my main Tecmar Travan and DDS-3 drives.

 


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Wednesday, 26 July 2000

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The Register has an interesting article up about how Linux is threatening Microsoft's revenue stream in server space. But then, I've been saying for more than a year now that Linux is a deadly threat to NT Server/W2K Server, and one that Microsoft is unlikely to be able to counter. Right now, there are probably more Linux server installations going in at companies large enough to have an MIS staff than there are Windows server installations. For now, Microsoft has the advantage with small- and medium-size businesses based on the perception that NT/W2K is easier to install, configure, and manage than Linux. But that's likely to change, as improved GUI-based management tools continue to be developed for Linux. Real Soon Now, I expect one of the Linux vendors to package a "Linux Small Business Server" solution with GUI-everything and sane defaults. There have already been strides in that direction. When a truly dummy-proof Linux SBS finally appears, Microsoft had better look out.

O'Reilly emailed me yesterday to ask if I could give them better-quality photos for a couple of the illustrations in the book. I fired up the Olympus D-400Z and shot some more photos. While I was cleaning out the camera, I came across these shots, taken over the weekend.

avail-light-rbt-office-toward-den.jpg (32816 bytes)

Available light, hand-held, looking from my office into the hall. That's kerby on the left side of the frame. The open doorway in the hall leads down to my mother's area. The den is beyond. Visible across my doorway is the baby gate that I use to keep Malcolm from pillaging my stuff. The piece of paper at the bottom left is one of the test-bed labels I mentioned earlier that he'd ripped off the machines. I took this photo as a test, because one reader suggested that latency might be smaller if I used the LCD screen. If it was, I couldn't tell the difference.

clean-den--duncan-2.jpg (53019 bytes)

One view of the den after Barbara finished cleaning. That's Duncan on the sofa. The rug is the disposable one we got to protect ourselves against ottomans careering around the room. Malcolm has already eaten a lot of that rug's tufts, although you can't tell from the image. The strange wooden device on the floor near Duncan is a fiendish contraption with rotating rollers. Barbara rolls her feet on it to relax them.

malcolm-den-crate-1.jpg (65277 bytes)

Malcolm in his crate with a rawhide chew and a rubber toy. He actually likes being in his crate, and frequently goes in on his own. He doesn't like having the door closed, however, particularly when something interesting is going on elsewhere.

malcolm-den-crate-2.jpg (61873 bytes)

Another picture of Malcolm in his crate. It may look as though he's sleeping, but actually he's listening to the television commentary as Tiger Woods prepares to win the British Open. People who say that dogs don't watch television haven't seen ours. They'll watch anything with a dog in it, including commercials. They also like sports or just about anything with action in it. Their favorite programs are dog shows. Watching Malcolm see television for the first time was comic. He approached the screen closely to examine the dog on it, and started trying to sniff the screen. That didn't work, so he walked around the television and looked at the back of it. Having done that once, he was satisfied that there was no dog back there, so he doesn't bother doing that any more.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: tlslater [mailto:tlslater@computron.net]
Sent: Tuesday, July 25, 2000 11:56 AM
To: webmaster@ttgnet.com
Subject: accident

It would seem to me that if a truck has a blowout on one tire and thus becomes totally uncontrollable then there is more wrong here than it's because sometimes bad things happen. Perhaps these trucks are too big or are overloaded or something else, but if it cannot be controlled when loosing one tire then some re-engineering is in order. I cannot accept that we have to accept this as state of the art and we can't do anything about it.

Thanks for a great site. I read it Every Day.

Tom Slater
Lake Jackson, TX

Thanks for the kind words. As far as doing something about the problem, I'm not sure there's anything to be done. The truck driver was 72 years old, and they were on a section of Interstate with a 70 MPH (113 KPH) speed limit, both of which probably contributed to the disaster. I suppose it's possible that the truck had bald tires or something, although there was no mention in the newspaper of any such problem. More likely, the tire simply had a hidden defect, or the truck struck some debris on the road. 

Many years ago, I had a blowout in my VW Rabbit. I was only going about 35 MPH (56 KPH) at the time, and even at that slow speed I almost lost the car into the ditch. If you ever watch Winston Cup racing, you'll see that even the best drivers in the world are pretty helpless when a tire blows. Often, they literally drive straight into the wall. Things happen very quickly, and before one can react the situation has become unsalvageable.

If what you're suggesting is using technology or overbuilding to increase safety, then sure that could be done. Our cars could all be designed with four wheels per axle, or Doppler radar that would detect an imminent collision and fire us to safety in rocket-powered ejection seats with parachutes, or whatever. But that ignores cost/benefit. As horrible as such accidents are, they happen very infrequently. Overbuilding every vehicle to prevent such accidents would be extremely expensive, and could only reduce the frequency of such accidents rather than eliminate them. 

And anything you do to reduce the danger from one type of accident may increase the danger from other types of accidents. For example, what happens when we all have rocket-powered ejection seats and I happen to be about to collide with someone while I'm under an overpass? Or, in more realistic terms, look at airbags, which are killers despite what their advocates say. They'll admit that airbags have killed, say, a hundred people, but claim that at the same time they saved a thousand. Trouble is, the claimed thousand saved lives are someone's guess based on questionable assumptions, while the hundred that airbags killed are real corpses. Neither of our 4X4s has air bags. If I buy a new one that does, I'll disconnect the airbags myself.

The unfortunate truth is that life has risks and it's impossible to eliminate all of them and impractical to eliminate even most. Otherwise, we'd all drive main battle tanks, wear body armor and gas masks whenever we left the house, and not eat anything that might be bad for us, which is to say everything.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: tlslater [mailto:tlslater@computron.net]|
Sent: Tuesday, July 25, 2000 1:10 PM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: Re: accident

Thank you for the reply. Many years ago I had a blowout while driving an "un-safe at any speed" '64 Corvair at about 50MPH and didn't have any big problem pulling off to the shoulder. That's my only experience with a blowout. I see a lot of disintegrated truck tires along the highway so it would seem that it is possible to have a blowout without an accident. And no I don't want us to drive tanks. Perhaps some trucks are poorly engineered or maybe some 72 yr. old drivers aren't up to the task. I do watch Formula One racing on Fox Sports Net and see accidents caused by blowouts but these cars are going very fast. I just think an sixty thousand + lb. vehicle should be able to be controlled better if it looses a tire. Crossing over lanes of traffic and medians into oncoming traffic seems a little much.

Thanks again.

Tom Slater

Well, I certainly won't dispute that it'd be nice if vehicles remained controllable in any blowout situation, but I'm not sure how practical it is. Our different experiences illustrate that. In my case, it was one of the front tires and the blowout was catastrophic. I had both hands on the wheel, but it was still yanked out of my grasp. If I'd had my thumbs inside the steering wheel, they'd probably both have been broken. Perhaps the same thing happened to the guy driving the truck. We'll probably never know.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Jon Barrett [mailto:jonzann@altavista.net]
Sent: Tuesday, July 25, 2000 2:53 PM
To: webmaster@ttgnet.com
Subject: Digital cameras and latency

I have a Kodak DC-260 with abysmal latency (2-3 sec) from a standing start, but I have found that by using the recommended procedure (depressing the shutter half-way as you begin to set up the shot) as for AE and AF 35 mm cameras this can be significantly reduced. It still does nothing for the post-processing rate, but I have much better results with capturing the action, since it's pre-focussed and pre-metered.

Good point. I'd actually thought about locking the focus and following Malcolm as he roared around, but the problem was that I was using telephoto and he was moving rapidly toward and away from the camera. I was afraid that the limited depth of field at a longer focal length combined with his distance varying from perhaps 40 feet to perhaps 20 would result in very poorly focused pictures. But I may give that a try anyway. Thanks.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Tim Nance [mailto:tim@nancepub.com]
Sent: Tuesday, July 25, 2000 6:04 PM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: IE 5.5 Upgrade

>I'm wondering if any of my readers have installed the product and, if so, what they think of it. I should probably just >>>> >install it on a scratch system and play with it a bit.

Robert, I installed IE 5.5 last week, primarily for the security updates. Since then I have not noticed any new change in operation. But I wasn't looking for any either.

>I'm wondering if it's worth installing. I understand there are some nice fixes and so forth in it, but I wonder if it's > >really worth the upgrade.

I would say this is the primary reason to do so.

>Presumably, Microsoft has taken further steps with IE 5.5 to lock people into their way of doing things.

I'm not sure I follow you here. But some may say that I let Microsoft carry me blindly down the path. As long as it integrates and does what I need, I'm happy. I don't mind whose way it is.

Thanks for a great site. I read it almost every day.

Regards,

Tim Nance
Nance Publishing
mailto:tim@nancepub.com

www.nancepub.com
Your Eye on all that Matters to You -- www.iconzine.com

Thanks. I've gotten a couple other messages about IE5.5, and what you say seems to be the consensus. As far as "locking in" I was simply referring to the fact that each subsequent release of Microsoft products seems to have features intended to make it more difficult or impossible to break the cycle.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Claude T. Moultrie, Jr. [mailto:moultrie@swbell.net]
Sent: Tuesday, July 25, 2000 8:51 PM
To: webmaster@ttgnet.com
Subject: Action pictures with digital cameras.

Your difficulty taking action pictures of you dog was, I believe, a result of the time required to autofocus. There are two things you might consider to minimize this problem.

1) You might try using focus lock. Press the shutter release half way while pointed at an object about the same distance as the dog will be. When the focus light shows green move the camera to follow the action and press the shutter when ready. This eliminates the focus cycle by the camera.

2) My D-450Z has a quick focus feature which will hold the focus at infinity or at 8 feet depending on button pressed. This will also eliminate the camera's focus cycle.

In both cases you are depending on depth of field to compensate for slight error in focus.

On my Nikon 990, I have a choice of continuous focus which will attempt to result in the focus being already set at the moment I trip the shutter. I suspect that the Olympus is set to continuous focus when the LCD panel is on and turns it off when the panel is off to save battery. This is the way one mode on my Nikon works, but I can not find this in the Olympus manual.

Digital cameras sure are fun. All those things that I wanted to do but could not since I do not have a darkroom are now possible using my computer. I do not think I will ever expose a piece of film again.

Claude T. Moultrie, Jr.
The Colony, TX 75056
(In Dallas Metroplex)

Thanks. I may give that a try. My Olympus D-400Z has, I believe, an effective ISO film speed of 100. Using the old rule of thumb, that'd mean I'd be shooting 1/100 second at f/16 in bright sunlight, or perhaps 1/400 second at f/8. Given the very short actual focal length of the lens in a digital camera, perhaps the depth of focus will be adequate with focus set to infinity.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Gary Mugford [mailto:mugford@aztec-net.com]
Sent: Wednesday, July 26, 2000 2:42 AM
To: webmaster@ttgnet.com
Subject: Sometimes accidents happen

Robert,

The accident obviously touched you very deeply. And ultimately, you are right about how some things just happen, best efforts aside.

I'm an accident survivor. Twice. The first was ruled no-fault, although I felt at fault for a long time. I was approaching a green light at an intersection onto a major highway. I was doing the limit of what should have been a safe turn when I found that the far side of the road I was turning onto was rain slick. The edge of a sun shower on an otherwise sunny day had travelled right down the MEDIAN of the road. My speed would have been safe on a dry road. On rain-slicked hot pavement, I was a spinning accident waiting to hit something. I had been turning to my left. I ended up facing to my original right, having done two complete rotations. My rear end connected with the rear side panel of a car pointed to my original right, or I might have spun some more.

A policeman was right on the corner at the time and saw the whole thing. It was ruled a no-fault accident as soon as I volunteered to pay the deductible for the car I hit. But the ruling and reality are two different things.

My second accident cost me a car, a bad back and five months without work. I was heading back to my newspaper for the last time to clean out my desk. I was going to take a small vacation and then start in at the radio station. I was again turning left on a green light, but was stopped waiting for traffic to go by. The light turned amber and then red. ONE car came up the hill and went through the red light as I cursed him for all I was worth. I completed my turn. Or, at least I tried to. A drug dealer from Montreal, out on bail less than two hours, came barrelling through the red light TOO. His vehicle shaved off the back half of my Toyota. While I was still dazed and looking for my glasses, he came over to the car and actually slapped me.

He's in prison now, albeit not for his assault on me. It wasn't even considered in his sentencing.

I don't like to drive much. Sometimes bad things happen, no matter how careful you are.

Gary Mugford
Bramalea ON Canada

Yes, I find it depressing any time children die like that. One would have been bad enough, but with both parents and three of six children dead, I can't imagine what it will be like for the three children who survived.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Phil Hough [mailto:phil4@compsoc.man.ac.uk]
Sent: Wednesday, July 26, 2000 5:33 AM
To: webmaster@ttgnet.com
Subject: brain drain

not much money... but a start:

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

Perhaps. At least they're trying. But I doubt they'll be successful. Money is part of it, certainly, but I suspect it's only one aspect. Bright people want to work surrounded by other bright people, in modern labs, and with lots of expensive equipment. My guess is that the effect of this initiative will largely be to improve the salaries of those who would have stayed in Britain anyway for one reason or another. I doubt it'll have much effect overall on the number of scientists leaving.

 


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Thursday, 27 July 2000

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Now here's an example of incredible incompetence, perpetrated no doubt by a "professional" web designer. One of my favorite mystery authors is Tess Gerritsen. She's a medical doctor who decided to write medical thrillers. Her books are similar to Robin Cook's, but better. At any rate, Barbara happened to come across her new web site while searching for something else, so I immediately pointed my browser to Dr. Gerritsen's web site. All I got was a black background and a warning dialog from Internet Explorer that my current security settings forbid running ActiveX controls. 

So I looked at the source. Check it out yourself. Paraphrased liberally, the source says, "If you ain't Shockwave, you ain't nuthin'" Using sane security settings, all this site displays is a blank black background. What kind of stupefying incompetent web designer would do that? I don't have Flash on my system, and I have no desire to have it on my system. Actually, using Flash at all is a questionable practice, but requiring it in order to view the page is simply so stupid as to be inexcusable.

I have no doubt that Dr. Gerritsen paid good money to a supposed professional to design and implement her web page for her. If so, she should file malpractice charges against whoever produced this pile of trash. But this is the kind of thing that happens when one allows a clueless graphics artist to design a site that "looks good." People like that need to read Jakob Nielsen's AlertBox over and over and over until they get it through their thick heads that "it's the content, stupid."

So, I figured what the heck. I have test bed systems all over the place that I'm constantly tearing down to bare metal. So I fired up IE on a Win98 test bed and hit http://www.tessgerritsen.com. After IE downloaded Flash 4.0, I finally got to see the page that the designer took such pains to prevent people from viewing. It's simply a splash screen, saying that this "A NEW SITE COMING SOON". Oh, and the reason they used Flash? So they could display a rather disgusting animated image of a pulsing brain. I am not making this up.

I'll mail Tess and let her know.

Malcolm's pillaging is becoming a real problem. He steals anything that's not nailed down, and some stuff that is. His favorites lately are towels (both from the laundry basket and right off kitchen counters) and plastic drinking cups. He's already stolen and partially eaten two of Barbara's large cups, and last night he got one of mine. I prefer the one quart plastic ones, and I'd left one sitting about half full of ice water on my end table. I was working in my office and heard cup munching noises. I ran out and Malcolm was standing on the floor near my end of the sofa, holding the cup in his mouth. 

I ran over, expecting to find a pint or so of water all over my end table, but there wasn't a drop anywhere I could find. He apparently drank all the water before he started playing with the cup. I've actually seen him drink from a cup in the past. At first, I couldn't understand how he could get his snout all the way down to the bottom of the cup and still lap up the water with his tongue. The answer is, he doesn't. He grabs the cup in his teeth, tilts his head back, and chugs whatever is in the cup. I am not making this up. The second picture below shows how he holds the cup to do that.

Here are several photos of Malcolm with my cup. I'm posting several to prove that this wasn't a posed photo. He carried that cup around for a good five minutes.

malcolm-green-cup-2.jpg (39007 bytes) malcolm-green-cup-3.jpg (35422 bytes) malcolm-green-cup-4.jpg (37724 bytes) malcolm-green-cup-5.jpg (37516 bytes)

Fortunately, he didn't fang the cup. He just drank all the water out of it and carried it around for a while. I'm drinking Coke from it as I write this. And as I sat here in my office writing this entry, I heard Barbara's answering machine in the den start playing back a recorded message. I thought she was back in her office, and I hadn't noticed her walking past mine toward the den. I shouted, and sure enough she was still back in her office. She stuck her head out of her office door and started laughing. Malcolm was standing on her end table punching different buttons on her answering machine with his snout.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Jonathan Sturm [mailto:jpsturm@dingoblue.net.au]
Sent: Wednesday, July 26, 2000 6:48 PM
To: webmaster@ttgnet.com
Subject: Linux in server space

Hi Robert

For a contrarian view, this from Paul Thurrot's newsletter:

"IIS is the most commonly used Web server at Fortune 500 companies, according to ENT, with 41 percent of the market. In second place is Netscape/iPlanet with 35 percent. And the supposedly dominant Apache brings up the rear with only 15 percent of Fortune 500 deployments. Thanks to the success of IIS, Windows 2000/NT is also the most commonly used OS on Fortune 500 Web sites: NT is used on 43 percent of such sites. Sun Microsystems' Solaris comes in second with 36 percent. But the real surprise for those people who religiously follow the Netcraft surveys is that Linux "falls into the noise level," according to ENT, with only 10 companies in the Fortune 500 using the upstart open-source OS to deploy their production sites. Even IBM AIX and HP/UX have 15 deployments each, and BSD/OS tops Linux with 14."

I think Linux certainly is getting close to competing with SBS, though. At least Ray Noorda's Caldera Open Linux 2.4 is. Since my clients are all SBS users, Linux's abilities in the small-medium business space are of great interest to me. And apparently it's Noorda's ambition to knock SBS off the perch.

OLX 2.4 installed smoothly (apart from the audio problem referred to in an earlier post). It was the first Linux distribution that saw everything working without fuss. I am still playing with it, but think already that it's very close to meeting my criteria for recommendation to clients. The lack of a journalling file system is still a concern, but I believe such is going to happen RSN.

If you are interested, I'll post you when I have finished testing. Probably early next week. Today is being eaten by the tax man. Tomorrow is set aside for drinking with some IT colleagues.

Well, perhaps. But from my own (admittedly limited) experience, Linux seems to be eating Windows 2000 Server's lunch in new installations. I'm not sure who "ENT" is, or why I should trust their figures, which on the face of them seem ridiculous. If you'd asked me to guess, I'd have said that at least 400 of the Fortune 500 run Apache servers on some flavor of *ix, and I'd be very surprised if that guess was far off the mark.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Paul Robichaux [mailto:paul@robichaux.net]
Sent: Thursday, July 27, 2000 6:28 AM
To: Bob Thompson
Subject: New SUVs

http://poseur.4x4.org/futuresuv.html

--
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!

Very nice. If I could afford it, I'd go with the Dominator model, or even the Grand Dominator. I do wonder if there's a typo in the description, though, "road hugging" instead of "road hogging". I also liked the Lincoln Mortifier, but you have to work your way through the site to find that one.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: J. H. RICKETSON [mailto:JHR@warlockltd.com]
Sent: Thursday, July 27, 2000 7:54 AM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: Your 07/26 Post - Unix Servers

Dear Bob,

You said "The Register has an interesting article up about how Linux is threatening Microsoft's revenue stream in server space. But then, I've been saying for more than a year now that Linux is a deadly threat to NT Server/W2K Server, and one that Microsoft is unlikely to be able to counter. Right now, there are probably more Linux server installations going in at companies large enough to have an MIS staff than there are Windows server installations. For now, Microsoft has the advantage with small- and medium-size businesses based on the perception that NT/W2K is easier to install, configure, and manage than Linux. But that's likely to change, as improved GUI-based management tools continue to be developed for Linux. Real Soon Now, I expect one of the Linux vendors to package a "Linux Small Business Server" solution with GUI-everything and sane defaults. There have already been strides in that direction. When a truly dummy-proof Linux SBS finally appears, Microsoft had better look out."

Interesting you should mention that. From my reading of The Creation of the UNIX* Operating System (here), it was built from the ground up as a multi-user mainframe OS, and they have had 30 years to get it right. That is perhaps why Unix, and Apache in particular, dominates the Server arena. Apparently they did indeed get it right!

That strength in the Server arena, IMO is perhaps a reason that *X has not made any significant penetration on the Desktop. Perhaps it is as difficult to scale down as it is for Windows to scale up to the Server. At any rate, there is real hope, and sooner than RSN (here) For the latest report from the Nautilus/Eazel Project. First release to be downloadable in mid-August (2000?), and included with GNOME releases from September. I don't expect miracles. It took Windows three tries to get it right. But from what I see, Eazel will be at least the beginning of a potential massive breakthrough for "The Rest of Us." Further comment at my post for Tuesday, July 25.

Regards,

JHR

--
J. H. RICKETSON
[JHR@WarlockLltd.com]
27/07/2000 4:30:39 AM

Thanks. I'd actually read the stuff yesterday about Nautilus on your site. What's holding back Linux from becoming a dominant desktop OS is the lack of a standard, comprehensive GUI environment (although that's changing) and the lack of mainstream applications (which is also changing). In order for Linux to become dominant on the desktop, it needs to look like Windows, act like Windows, and (ideally) run native Windows applications. That's not here yet, but we're heading in that direction. I was very impressed by Linux Mandrake when I installed it a couple of months ago. It installed very smoothly, almost Windows-like, and I ended up with a very usable desktop working environment. But for Linux to become dominant as a desktop OS, we have to get to the point where one can plop down a Linux PC in front of an experienced Windows user and have that user begin to use Linux productively without learning anything new. I don't doubt that's going to happen, but I think it's still a year or two away. But server space is different. Linux is already competing head to head with Windows server in server space, and it looks like things are just going to continue getting harder for Windows.

 


wpoison

 

 

 

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Friday, 28 July 2000

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O'Reilly sent us the final PDF galleys for PC Hardware in a Nutshell late yesterday afternoon, so we'll be spending the next week or so doing final checks on the whole book. They're also FedExing a printed copy to arrive today, so we'll have that one to check through as well. I find that errors on the printed page jump out at me more readily than those on screen, so I plan to spend some quality time with the printed version. That means the posts here will be short for the next week or so.

I'm quite pleased with Onvia.com. I needed two small items, a Travan cleaning tape and a DDS cleaning tape. None of the vendors I usually use had both items in stock, so I decided that this was a good opportunity to try a new vendor. I usually do that, placing a small "test" order with a vendor before trusting them for any serious business. I placed the order at about 1:35 p.m. on Tuesday (25 July). The Travan cleaning tape arrived via UPS ground the following afternoon. The DDS cleaning tape arrived yesterday afternoon. One or two days to deliver. Not bad for ground shipping. Onvia are apparently good guys.

Now comes the interesting part. I decided to take a chance. Instead of ordering one of the $30 Travan cleaning tapes, I decided to order a product made by Read Right called a DC2000 1/4" Drive Head Cleaner. Basically, it's a plastic facsimile of a Travan tape cartridge. It comes with little disposable pads and a bottle of cleaning fluid. Allegedly, it was good for 108 cleanings. My experience was that it was good for about 108 less cleanings that it was rated for. I took it out of the blister pack, followed the directions, and the little built-in arm jammed. But for $12 it was worth the chance. Ordinarily, I'd just pitch it, because $12 isn't worth my time to try to get the situation resolved. But Onvia has posted policies for how they handle defective merchandise, so perhaps as an experiment I'll see just how well they perform.

Incidentally, the Read Right stuff is trash. Don't bother ordering it. My $12 cleaner comprised a plastic cartridge that must have cost them all of $0.25 to manufacture, a set of pads that might have cost another $0.05, and a small bottle of cleaning fluid which might have added another $0.20 in manufacturing costs. So they blister pack it and sell it for $12 at discount, which probably isn't all that much more than they charged Onvia for it. Nice racket.

This just reinforces what I've been preaching for years. Don't buy cheap stuff. You'll regret it.

Several people questioned my questioning the ENT study stating that Microsoft IIS was the dominant web platform among the Fortune 500. My gut reaction was that this study was full of crap (ENT magazine is, after all, aimed at NT/W2K readers), so I did some checking myself, using www.netcraft.com to report the OS and web server platform in use. I checked the top 20, and found that Netcraft didn't report what OS was being used by four of those, so I checked 21 through 24 to give me a top 20 number. Of those 20, 16 were using Unix (mostly Solaris with Netscape) and 4 were using NT4/IIS. So I checked a bunch more, pretty much at random, and those percentages held up. About 80% of the web sites were running some form of Unix, and 20% NT4/IIS.

Then I got interested, so I started checking other sites, including those I visit every day, a bunch of big ecommerce sites (like Amazon, L. L. Bean, Lands' End, etc.) and a bunch of hardware manufacturers. The percentages became even more skewed, with more than 90% of those sites using some form of Unix, and less than 10% NT/IIS. I came across only one site that explicitly said it was using Windows 2000, which I think is significant. I don't doubt that many of those 90% also use NT/IIS in some form, perhaps for internal intranet servers. But the unsurprising fact is that Unix owns the Internet.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Chris Ward-Johnson [mailto:chriswj@mostxlnt.co.uk]
Sent: Thursday, July 27, 2000 10:10 AM
To: Robert Bruce Thompson (E-mail)
Subject: What's that site running?

I'd have guessed like you, three quarters or more of Fortune 500 companies would be running on some sort of *NIX. Well, I did a bit of checking on Netcraft (http://www.netcraft.com/whats/)

www.fortune.com is running unknown on BSD/OS
www.gm.com is running Netscape-Enterprise/3.6 SP3 on Solaris
www.wal-mart.com is running Netscape-Enterprise/3.6 SP2 on HP-UX
www.exxon.com is running Netscape-Enterprise/3.6 SP3 on Solaris
www.ford.com is running Microsoft-IIS/4.0 on NT4 or Windows 98
www.ge.com is running Netscape-Enterprise/3.6 SP2 on Solaris
www.ibm.com is running Domino-Go-Webserver/4.6
www.citigroup.com is running Netscape-Enterprise/3.6 SP3 on Solaris
www.att.com is running Netscape-Enterprise/3.6 SP3 on Solaris
www.boeing.com is running Netscape-Enterprise/2.01
www.hp.com is running Apache/1.3.9 (Unix) mod_fastcgi/2.2.2 on HP-UX
www.lucent.com is running Netscape-Enterprise/3.6 SP3 on IRIX

The list goes on; Netscape on Solaris seems to the webserver architecture of choice for these top-of-list Fortune 500 companies; so where are these companies ENT (whoever they are - http://www.ent.com, you'll be pleased to know, uses Flash) found using NT/IIS? On their intranet machines? They're sure not using them on their public-facing servers. Or perhaps they've just added up however many NT servers Microsoft says its sold to F500 companies and used that number - after all, NTS ships with IIS by default...

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

Thanks. I wish I'd waited for your message before I'd gone out and checked for myself. My figures were that about 80% of the Fortune 500 web sites I checked ran some flavor of Unix. The remaining 20% ran NT.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Rod Montgomery [mailto:monty@sprintmail.com]
Sent: Thursday, July 27, 2000 10:53 AM
To: webmaster@ttgnet.com
Subject: Linux in server space

There is not necessarily an inconsistency between the following two statements: A. IIS has 41 percent of the Fortune 500 Web-server market, Linux only 15 percent. B. Apache on Linux dominates the Web-server market.

What I suspect is that Fortune 500 Web-servers constitute only a small fraction of total Web-servers. And probably an even smaller fraction of new Web-server installations during any given time-frame.

And the numbers for Web-sites are not necessarily even correlated with the numbers for Web-servers: many very small Web-sites share servers, and some very large Web-sites have multiple servers.

As with all surveys, to make any sense out of the results, you have to know the precise phrasing of the questions asked, the precise definition of the universe surveyed, and precisely what you are trying to learn from the results.

Are you a hardware manufacturer, trying to figure out which turn-key Web-server configuration(s) will be most profitable? Or are you a Web-designer wannabee, trying to figure out which Web-site design package(s) to learn, to maximize your prospective income?

Good points all. And I'll add that because of their sheer size, Fortune 500 companies are likely to be running many web servers. Any one company may have a dozen or more publicly-accessible web servers and scores or hundreds of internal web servers. As you say, you can come up with the answers you want by phrasing the questions properly.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: [dmagda at ee.ryerson.ca]
Sent: Thursday, July 27, 2000 11:38 AM
To: webmaster@ttgnet.com
Subject: standard GUI

On 27 July 2000 (Thursday), you wrote: > Thanks. I'd actually read the stuff yesterday about Nautilus on your > site. What's holding back Linux from becoming a dominant desktop OS is > the lack of a standard, comprehensive GUI environment (although that's > changing) and the lack of mainstream applications (which is also

Some people would argue that choice is a good thing, and that there is no One True Way of doing things. I do understand though that you mean a consistent friendly atmosphere for ``newbies'' to be comfortable in.

But I like the choice of being able to test KDE, GNOME, fvwm{-95,-2}, Xfce, and choose which one I like best. Differnet people have different needs afterall.

> changing). In order for Linux to become dominant on the desktop, it > needs to look like Windows, act like Windows, and (ideally) run native > Windows applications. That's not here yet, but we're heading in that

It should be able to emulate Windows but grow beyond it. Of course it be better for everyone if MS Office would save files in XML and then we all could simple focus on work and not care about interfaces and applications. We should care about the data/work that we create and not the tools by which it is done. But Word is the defacto processor so you must be able to interface with it regardless of whether you need all it ``features.'' Too bad OpenDoc flopped. Imagine only using the parts of the wordprocessor/spreadsheet/drawing package that you need and only installing those parts.

Fewer lines of code, less bloat, less complexity, smaller chances of bugs. Maybe IBM/Apple could release the source code to the public under some kind of open source arrangement. Do you have any colleagues/friends/contacts who you could suggest this to? :>

> Windows-like, and I ended up with a very usable desktop working > environment. But for Linux to become dominant as a desktop OS, we have > to get to the point where one can plop down a Linux PC in front of an > experienced Windows user and have that user begin to use Linux > productively without learning anything new. I don't doubt that's going

Emulating the interface would not be to hard. Right now you can configure most window managers (KDE, GNOME, fvwm-95, etc.) to a fair degree of detail. It would mostly be a task of choosing sane default values. Most reasonable people don't care what they use as long as they can get their work done and share their documents with others. Whether a system comes Windows or GNU/Linux pre-installed doesn't matter much I would hope.

The main things now I would think are games. Since most games need direct access to sound hardware (www.also-project.org) and video acceleration (dri.sourceforge.net). I guess people don't like games like Nethack (www.nethack.org) anymore.

P.S. Perhaps you should rename your webpage ``The Antics of Malcolm.'' :> Thank you for your site which is a great big time vaccuum (sp?) for me. :>

-- 
David Magda 
<dmagda at ee.ryerson.ca>
3rd Year Electrical Eng.
 "Well," said Pooh, "what I like best--" and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called. -A.A.Milne,The House at Pooh Corner

Well, some might argue that choice is a good thing, but they're wrong when it comes to Linux taking on Microsoft in desktop space and winning. Choice is the antithesis of standardization, and standardization is essential if Linux is to compete as a desktop OS. I don't think games are particularly important. The only place they count is the home market, and the home market follows the corporate market. What Linux needs is to make inroads on corporate desktops. After that, they can worry about supporting the home user.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Jonathan Sturm [mailto:jpsturm@dingoblue.net.au]
Sent: Thursday, July 27, 2000 2:55 PM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: RE: Linux in server space

Robert

Here's the URL to the analysis:

Here's the tool they used:

And here's the Excel spreadsheet of the results:

I only checked a small random sample, but the results tallied with those in the spreadsheet.

I checked about a hundred myself, using Netcraft. The Fortune 500 top 20 (actually, top 24, because I discarded the four that didn't show which OS was in use) came back with four using NT4/IIS and sixteen using some flavor of Unix. So I checked some more at random, and then some more, and then still some more. The percentages held remarkably steady. NT4/IIS has about 20% of the main F500 web servers. Unix has about 80%.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: phil hough [mailto:phil_hough@hotmail.com]
Sent: Thursday, July 27, 2000 2:15 PM
To: webmaser@ttgnet.com
Subject: Read Receipts

When I read your emails in Outlook (as opposed to my usual, Pine), your emails elicit a Read Receipt. Do you want these? Really? I can see why you'd have them (sending all those emails, some important). Would you be at all offended if I just binned them (unless it's something important of course!)?

ATB.

Phil

Yes, I have my copy of Outlook configured to request both delivery and read receipts, and to reject all requests for such receipts. I do the former because it's often important to me to have confirmed that someone has gotten a message (my editor, for example). I do the latter because I don't want many of the messages I receive (spam, for example) to generate any reply whatsoever from me, including a receipt.

In fact, the issue of receipts is one of the main reasons why I stopped using Eudora years ago and wouldn't even consider trying it again. Eudora allows (or did in the last version I used) requesting receipts, but only on a message-by-message basis. There's no way to turn on requests for receipts automatically. Their help file rather sanctimoniously says that they do it that way because receipts are generally useless and simply add to bandwidth demands. Yeah, right. The last thing I need is an email program that refuses to do what I want because the programmers are control freaks.

Ideally, a mail client should have configuration options in its address book that would allow one to configure behavior according to the sender. So I could add my editor's information as an address book item and mark the check box "Honor receipt requests?"

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Frank McPherson [mailto:frank@fmcpherson.com]
Sent: Thursday, July 27, 2000 6:00 PM
To: webmaster@ttgnet.com
Subject: Questioning stats

Ok, you question the statistics claiming that IIS has higher penetration in Fortune 500 companies. So, what is the source of your information to the contrary? Do you have pointers to specific surveys or statistics showing this, or are you going on your own educated guess?

Frank McPherson, MCSE
frank@fmcpherson.com
Windows CE Knowledge Center: www.fmcpherson.com/knowce

Neither, actually. I went out and checked the top 20 (24, actually, because four came back not reporting the OS in use) and found that 80% were using Unix and only 20% NT. So I went out and checked a bunch more at random until I got up to about 100 total sites checked. The percentages held at about 80% Unix and 20% NT.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: J. H. RICKETSON [mailto:JHR@warlockltd.com]
Sent: Friday, July 28, 2000 5:10 AM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: Stumped

Bob -

I'm having problems getting Nero to recognize my Plextor UltrapleX 40Max CD-R/W. SCSI HA recognizes both the the Ricoh 7060S and the Plextor at boot. All my OSs recognize P: and Q: as Ricoh & Plextor, respectively. (in File Manager.) I can read and copy from both, and run .EXEs from both.

Yet Nero adamantly refuses to recognize anything but the Ricoh 7060S, either as a source or a destination, with or without CDs inserted.

Short of getting Nero's attention with a pool cue - any ideas on this peculiarity? Does Nero have an HCL or something that you know of?

Regards,

JHR

--
J. H. RICKETSON
[JHR@WarlockLltd.com]
28/07/2000 1:58:31 AM

Dunno. That's pretty strange. I've done nearly all of my copying with Nero using the CD writer as both source and destination, but it should work fine with your Plextor CD-ROM drive. Here, for example, is a screenshot from Nero running on my main SCSI system.

neroplex.png (9571 bytes)

Nero does have an HCL, but only for recorders. You can find it at http://www.ahead.de/en/Recorder.htm. You should be able to use any CD-ROM drive as a source, though.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Jonathan Sturm [mailto:jpsturm@dingoblue.net.au]
Sent: Friday, July 28, 2000 6:08 AM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: RE: Linux in server space

But Unix doesn't equate with Linux which appears to have 10% or less. Not trying to put Linux down, but it does not bode well that the spin doctors seem to be required to make it seem better than it is. Have also heard that many Linux sites are paid to say how great an OS it is. Currently, I perceive that I am a rat leaving the sinking MS ship! In the small business server space, I think Linux has a lot to offer. Exaggerating the importance of Linux with bad stats serves no-one.

I'm not trying to exaggerate anything. My original statement was "I'd have said that at least 400 of the Fortune 500 run Apache servers on some flavor of *ix, and I'd be very surprised if that guess was far off the mark." And I'll stand by that guess. Unfortunately, we have no easy way to find out all of the platforms that Fortune 500 companies are using internally (or even externally, because many run multiple publicly-accessible web servers), but based on the main web servers that I checked, most of them are running some flavor of Unix rather than Windows 2000. I found only one main web server among those I checked in the Fortune 500 that was running Windows 2000. One.

 


wpoison

 

 

 

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Saturday, 29 July 2000

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I've kept the Netcraft query page up and minimized for the last couple of days, just so that I could check which OS and web server platform various sites are using. Most times I hit a web site, I also go over to Netcraft and check that web site's configuration. I got one yesterday that makes me wonder whether or not Netcraft's data can be trusted. When I checked PC Connection yesterday, Netcraft returned the following amazing information:

www.pcconnection.com is running Microsoft-IIS/4.0 on BSD/OS

The last time I looked, IIS didn't run on BSD/OS. So unless Microsoft has a secret project to port IIS to Unix and PC Connection is testing it, I have to wonder how far to trust the information that Netcraft provides.

The conclusion I'm coming to, and it's really no surprise, is that high-traffic sites are almost certain to use one or another flavor of Unix (often Solaris for the busiest sites), and, with few exceptions, only moderate- to low-traffic sites use NT/IIS (although even those sites are much more likely to use *ix than NT). Note that corporate size and traffic are essentially unrelated. There are companies in the Fortune 50 whose main web sites may not even be in the top 500,000 as far as web site traffic. I doubt, for example, that TIAA-CREF (Fortune #19) gets an overwhelming number of hits on their web site. On the other hand, a lot of e-commerce sites that get massive numbers of hits aren't even in the Fortune 10,000.

And then, of course, there's the issue that many large companies maintain many web servers under various domain names. Here again, traffic seems to be the determinant. High traffic sites use Unix, with very few exceptions. One notable exception is microsoft.com, which couldn't very well use Unix if only to protect their own image. Of course, they used to use Unix web servers until someone publicly pointed that out. Even now, Microsoft's really high-traffic site, hotmail.com, runs Apache on FreeBSD. And that should tell you something. Is there any possibility that Microsoft is using Apache/FreeBSD on hotmail for any reason other than the fact that NT/2000 and IIS can't cut it in a high-traffic environment? If so, I don't know what it might be.

The reading of the galleys continues. Barbara is working with the printed copy, and I'm going through the PDFs. I've found quite a few minor mistakes--mostly formatting problems and so on--and a couple of major ones.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Mike Boyle [mailto:mboyle@toltbbs.com]
Sent: Friday, July 28, 2000 11:22 AM
To: webmaster@ttgnet.com
Subject: WWW Servers

Robert

I notice that www.microsoft.com runs 2000, but www.hotmail.com (also Microsoft) runs apache with unix.

Mike Boyle
mboyle@buckeye-express.com

Yep, and so does LinkExchange.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Chris Ward-Johnson [mailto:chriswj@mostxlnt.co.uk]
Sent: Friday, July 28, 2000 12:24 PM
To: Robert Bruce Thompson (E-mail)
Subject: Problems with Adapted software

I've been smirking quietly to myself over the problems some of your correspondents have been experiencing with Adaptec's Easy CD Creator software; version 3.5c runs just fine here on my W2KP box - or, rather, ran fine until last week when something happened and I started burning coasters. Then I read about the problems there are between this software and v7 of Microsoft' s Media Player; MP includes some sort of plug-in to allow you to burn CDs with Adaptec software - well, that's the theory. Of course, it doesn't work and, as is the way of these things, it not only messes up itself but the Adaptec software.

I've now uninstalled MP and everything's fine again. Those of your correspondents who've had problems with Easy CD Creator should check that they're not using MP 7 too.

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.

Interesting. Thanks.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Bob Sprowl [mailto:BSprowl@opc-mhc.org]
Sent: Friday, July 28, 2000 4:11 PM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: Resetting NT user passwords

I started reading your daynotes when Jerry went to Paris and find them interesting. I am located southwest of Raleigh and your weather reports are often quite different.

My local government organization recently was given several surplus NT computers (P133s with 64 MB RAM and large 1.2 GB hard disks). We had hoped to use these computers to replace some 486-33s and for those staff members that don't have any computers.

These computers are complete and boot to the screen which asks for the user to enter ctrl-alt-delete to generate the prompt for the user's name and password. We have not been able to get beyond this point. If we booted NT from a floppy, could we just delete all .pwd files to fix our problem? Will NT even boot from a floppy disk?

Some of the systems have NTFS while other have HPFS file systems; will this matter? (We are a Novell and Win9X operation so we have no experience with NT.)

Any help will be appreciated.

No, NT won't boot from a floppy in the sense you mean, although the setup disks do boot a minimal kernel to allow you to install NT. There are ways to get around the problem you describe, but they are primarily intended to allow rescuing data from a system. What you need to do is re-install NT on those systems. It sounds as though you may have NT 3.5x, because NT4 provided only very limited (read-only) support for HPFS partitions. Whether you have NT 3.5x or NT4, if you want to continue using NT I'd recommend stripping the disks down to bare metal and reinstalling using either NTFS or FAT. Use NTFS if you're concerned about security on the local machines (as you've seen, getting in is not easy) or FAT if you're not. NTFS is relatively inefficient on small hard disks, but at 1.2 GB there shouldn't be any problems. Also, you may not have legal copies of NT on those systems, unless you were also given the original NT distribution CDs with those systems. If you don't have the CDs, it'd be worth contacting whoever donated the systems. They may have the CDs lying around somewhere. Finally, a Pentium/133 is a really minimal configuration for NT, although 64 MB is perfectly adequate for most applications under NT. You might want to consider wiping out the hard disks entirely and installing Win9X, with which you are more familiar anyway.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Jonathan Sturm [mailto:jpsturm@dingoblue.net.au]
Sent: Friday, July 28, 2000 10:19 PM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: RE: Linux in server space

I found 212 running NT including Win2k (which accounted for 5 of the 212). 10 were linux. 3 were Mac OS and 1 was Netware. 28 were unknown. This means 256 were running *nix and Linux accounts for 3.9% of them. I suppose we should say that Linux as a proportion of *nix is about as successful as Win2k is in its representation of 2.4% of NT installations.

However, Win2k has only been officially available since February of this year. Linux has been around a lot longer. I don't think there's any surprise that most await SP1 before rolling out Win2k on production servers. Many who remember the NT4 SP2 disaster will wait longer.

I count only 73 running Apache. Somehwat less than your guess of 400.

Thanks BTW for the stimulus to go find these tools and stats. I find that testing reality is far more informative than guesswork or hearsay.

Yes, but what are you testing? My original statement was "If you'd asked me to guess, I'd have said that at least 400 of the Fortune 500 run Apache servers on some flavor of *ix, and I'd be very surprised if that guess was far off the mark." Say you use Netcraft to test www.microsoft.com and find that it's using Windows 2000 and IIS/5. So you put Microsoft down in the Windows/IIS camp. But what about www.hotmail.com, which is another high-volume Microsoft site that happens to run Apache and Unix? I'll say it again. I'd guess that at least 400 of the Fortune 500 are running Apache servers on some flavor of *ix. I used Netcraft to test the billboard web servers of the Fortune 500 not because I thought that'd give me any definitive information, but simply because I found it interesting. 

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Jonathan Sturm [mailto:jpsturm@dingoblue.net.au]
Sent: Friday, July 28, 2000 11:24 PM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: RE: Linux in server space

Here's Apache's take on the debate.

I wonder why they only checked the top 30 of the top 50 sites ;-)

Well, obviously they're biased too, but what they're saying makes a lot more sense than what ENT is saying. The implication made by ENT is that Windows/IIS is the most popular choice for high-volume sites, which is obviously not true. Even Microsoft tacitly admits that by using Apache/Unix on hotmail.com, which they obviously wouldn't do if NT/IIS were a viable alternative. As a matter of fact, I seem to remember that Microsoft tried using NT/IIS for hotmail and were forced to change to a more robust, more scalable platform. I don't think I'm imagining that, but I don't recall all the details.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Jeffrey Bruss [mailto:jbruss@csus.edu]
Sent: Saturday, July 29, 2000 12:19 AM
To: webmaster@ttgnet.com
Subject: It's info-art

In reference to your rant regarding Tess Gerritsen's website, I must take exception to your comments. I visited the site myself, and you've got the factual information right: it does require Flash to be seen. However, I think you miss the mark when you excoriate the site's designer for requiring the Flash plug-in. The Internet, as most of us know, is unique in the way it combines art with information. For proof of this, I simply point to the existence of HTML. We could easily get by with an information-only internet (okay, World Wide Web, if you want to get technical), but we don't. Instead, we have this scripting language that allows us to place pictures, designs, etc. on web pages. Since the act of "marking-up" a web page is akin to graphic design, it should be granted that there is artistry involved in any given page. Sure, some pages (yours and Pournelle's come to mind) that are more content-driven, but even on these sites, you make some effort at efficient layouts and pleasant design.

Granted, content drives the art - although sometimes the content IS the art - and without content, the WWW would have no reason to exist. If the art interferes with the content, in my opinion, then that makes for a bad web page.

And yet, I was able to surf on over to Dr. Gerritsen's page without problems. This means that the art didn't interfere with the content (such as it was). It also meant that the artist chose a medium I was able to understand. To compare: imagine yourself a deaf person. You won't be able to get much from a Beethoven sonata, because the artist chose a medium you simply aren't able to perceive. Is that the artist's fault? Or, perhaps you're a nearsighted person. Would you be able to enjoy things like Stone Mountain or the Statue of Liberty? Only if you wear your eyeglasses. As it turns out, eyeglasses as an analogy works much better. These aren't things that are necessary, but they're things that make life more convenient. Such is the case with Flash/Shockwave. It's simply an artistic decision, and if you find that the web page in question is required viewing, you'll go out of your way to accommodate the artist.

As always, kudos to you for maintaining one of the most fascinating pages on the net.

Jeffrey T. Bruss
The Hardware Connection
www.hardwareconnection.com

Well, if you want to see in absolute terms how badly they butchered that site, go look at the source code. They even managed to screw up the fundamental HTML tags that define the page.

I have no quarrel with art. I enjoy listening to a Bach concerto or viewing an Ansel Adams print. But the fundamental purpose of the web is to convey information, and anything that gets in the way of that purpose should be avoided. If I want to listen to Vivaldi, I put a CD in the player. I don't go looking for it on the web. If I want to feast my eyes on an Edward Weston, I look at the print, not a poor facsimile of it on the web.

I don't even have a quarrel with people who want to use Flash, although I think it's a dumb thing to use. What I do have a quarrel with is someone who arbitrarily requires that someone install Flash if they want to access the site. Nearly every Flash site I've encountered uses an initial splash screen that allows the viewer to choose the Flash version or the non-Flash version. By requiring people to use Flash or not use the site at all, the designers have arbitrarily limited the usability of that site by a relatively large percentage of potential viewers. That's about as dumb as writing the content in Swahili or Turkish. Not that I have anything against those languages, but using either of them would make the site useless to nearly all of the people that Dr. Gerritsen presumably wants to visit her site.

Now, I may be wrong. I suppose it's conceivable that Dr. Gerritsen as a public service wants to bring up an "artistic" site whose only purpose is to be visually appealing, and has no concern about the ability of that site to generate new readers for her books. But I don't think so. I'd guess that she's bringing up that site in the expectation that it will generate additional book sales. If so, she's going about it wrong. Or, I should say, she appears to have hired someone who is going about it wrong.

 


wpoison

 

 

 

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Sunday, 30 July 2000

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Still working on galleys for PC Hardware in a Nutshell. Barbara is about 25% of the way through the printed version. I've decided to bag working on the PDFs and just follow her on the printed version. I simply can't find problems on PDFs as easily as I can on the printed version. The edits are due back 8/11, which we'll easily beat. I still don't know the production schedule, but my guess is that the book will hit the warehouses in late August. 

I'll post a link soon for anyone who wants to pre-order the book. I've set up an affiliate relationship with Fatbrain.com (former Computer Literacy Bookstores). I used to have one of those with Amazon.com, but dropped it because I was upset at them for patenting stuff that has no business being patented. Still, a lot of people like to buy from Amazon.com, so I may set up another affiliate relationship for those who prefer to buy from Amazon.

For those who are unfamiliar with how affiliate relationships work, if you order the book from one of my links, the bookseller will pay me a small commission on the book, typically 5% to 10% of the selling price, depending on the bookseller and exactly how the book is ordered. Amazon, for example, pays a higher percentage for sales that result from a direct link to a specific book, and a lower percentage for sales that result from a general link to Amazon.com. 

The real rip is that some booksellers pay only on direct purchases from a link. That is, if someone clicks the link on my page and buys my book and a couple others, the bookseller pays the commission only on the one book that was directly linked to. Or if someone gets to the bookseller site by clicking on the link on my site but then browses around the bookseller site before finally purchasing, the bookseller doesn't pay any commission at all. I frankly don't pay all that much attention to this stuff, because the amount of money involved is very small, but I seem to remember that Fatbrain.com is better than most in this respect, so I'll probably encourage readers who don't have a preference to go with the Fatbrain link.

Any commissions that I earn from such links go directly toward the costs of maintaining this site, so if you like the site and plan to buy the book mail-order anyway, I'd appreciate you doing so from one of my links.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Jonathan Sturm [mailto:jpsturm@dingoblue.net.au]
Sent: Saturday, July 29, 2000 4:29 PM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: RE: Linux in server space

I thought ENT were making the quite valid point that NT/IIS is a frequent choice of big business. High volume, yes, but not the Amazon.com(s). I suspect that the ENT survey was done to counter the surveys that purport to show Linux/Apache everywhere by including a preponderance of amateurs.

There are also the continual claims that NT is unstable and unsuitable for large scale computing and that Linux is making huge inroads into this space. This survey shows that this is not the belief of the Fortune 500.

Because my curiosity has been piqued, I am halfway through testing the top 100 websites based on advertising revenue according to WebTrack. Linux has been making a better show here and I have found one site running Apache on NT. The preponderanct combination is Solaris/Netscape/Enterprise. Full results in an hour or so.

I think the reason Hotmail runs using Apache/Unix is because that's the way it was set up when MS bought it. Porting Hotmail to run on NT/IIS would probably not be a trivial exercise. I have no recollection of them having already done it then abandoning the project. With tongue firmly in cheek, maybe they should to give Hotmail some stability.

I don't think that survey shows any such thing, although I'm sure that's what it was intended to show. Understand, I don't have anything against NT. I've written books about it, and I run it on my own main system and most of my servers. There's no better choice than NT right now for a client operating system, and it's a good choice for small to medium servers in many businesses. But attempting to convince someone who understands the situation that NT is as good as Unix for large, high-volume servers is a losing battle. NT is fine for the workgroup/departmental server niche. It simply doesn't have what it takes to be suitable as an enterprise operating system.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Jonathan Sturm [mailto:jpsturm@dingoblue.net.au]
Sent: Saturday, July 29, 2000 5:33 PM
To: Robert Bruce Thompson
Subject: OS & Webserver Survey

Hi Robert

I finished the survey of the top 100 websites by advertising revenue according to WebTrack and the results are as follows:

OS Number

-- ------

AIX           1
BSD/OS        3
FreeBSD       5
Irix          3
Linux        14
NT4          17
Solaris      47
Sun OS        1
Compaq Tru64  1
Unknown       8

Webserver
---------
Apache              43
IIS                 15
Netscape/Commerce    1
Netscape/Enterprise 32
Netscape/Fast Track  1
Unknown              8

Okay, so as far as OS, that puts Unix at 82% and NT at 18%. As far as web server platforms, that puts Apache at 47%, Netscape at 37%, and IIS at 16%. No surprises there. I suspect that if you do the same survey 12 months from now, you'll find that Unix and Apache have grown substantially, NT/IIS will have lost noticeably, and Netscape will have lost dramatically. I also suspect that Linux share will have grown. Right now, Linux doesn't have all the bells and whistles of serious operating systems like Solaris. But that's changing, as high-end features continue to be incorporated in Linux. Also, it'd be interesting to compare large sites other than on the basis of advertising revenue. Many of the largest ecommerce sites don't take advertising, Amazon.com for example.

* * * * *

-----Original Message-----
From: Jay Libove [mailto:libove@felines.org]
Sent: Friday, July 30, 1999 7:05 AM
To: thompson@ttgnet.com
Subject: UPSes and lightning

Hello Robert -

Thank you for your UPS web page! Your experiences dovetail nicely with mine, though I think you have had far more experience with UPSes than I have. (I've been using them for about a decade, and have five quietly running presently, all APC, both second and third generation SmartUPS models).

(It's always nice to have confirmation)

My question is, what do you do about lightning strikes? The TrippLite and, I believe, APC warranties very carefully avoid any mention of lightning, but slip in language like "Power transients include spikes and surges on the AC power, data or telephone lines that the TRIPP LITE products have been designed to protect against (as recognized by industry standards)". In other words, though they don't like to come out and say it, as you point out, if lightning strikes, you and all of your filters, suppressors, UPSes, and computer equipment are smoked.

Hmm, very interesting: I just went back to the [APC web page] and found this:

American Power Conversion will repair or replace the APC product and any equipment (up to $25,000 USD) damaged by a surge or spike (even surges due to lightning strikes) while properly connected to an APC unit covered by the Equipment Protection Policy* * Certain legal restrictions apply, see below for details.

D'you think they really mean that they'll replace equipment which is connected to a SmartUPS and is damaged by a direct lightning strike? Or were they still being clever in talking about "surges due to lightning strikes"?

Have you looked in to lightning arrestors at the datacomm or house/building level?

Thanks for your experience! 

Nothing can protect against a "bolt on copper" strike that occurs close to one's home, but fortunately those are extremely rare. Such a strike will literally vaporize your home wiring, blow receptacles from the wall boxes, and almost certainly burn your house down. The vast majority of lightning damage is caused by induced voltages that occur when lightning strikes close to (but not directly against) power and phone wires. Those can be quite destructive, but it's possible to protect against all but the worst of them.

The main danger to PC equipment comes not from the AC power line, but from telephone lines. A dozen years or so ago, I had a computer literally smoked by a lighting strike that came in on the phone line, wiped out my modem, and proceeded through the serial cable to destroy the motherboard. It was quite obvious what had happened from looking at the inside of the PC. Chips near the serial connector were blackened and bubbled. Those farther away were not.

There are whole-house AC surge protectors available. They're reasonably cheap ($50 to $100), but must be installed by an electrician. I haven't installed one, but instead simply use good quality surge protectors between the wall receptacles and my electronic equipment. I do have whole-house protection on my phones lines, though. The protectors that the phone company installs are designed to protect people, not equipment. I installed modular phone line protectors from Panamax between the phone company demarc and my equipment. The carbon and/or gas discharge protectors that the phone company installs divert most of the juice from a lightning surge. My Panamax stuff shunts the remainder to ground.

As far as the equipment replacement warranties that all power protection companies offer, they're more a marketing gimmick than anything else. I have no doubt that they occasionally pay up, but it happens seldom, and I've never known anyone who actually collected on one of these guarantees. In the first place, the guarantee is invariably subrogated to your existing insurance coverage, and most people who have a claim find that their business or homeowner's insurance pays for most or all of the damage (although it's worth checking about depreciated versus replacement cost coverage and finding out just how much computer equipment is covered--it's often $2,500 or less unless you add a rider). Second, most people don't fully comply with the requirements for coverage under one of these warranties. They usually require a full "bubble of protection" whereby every connection to the equipment is protected. So they connect your TV to a surge suppressor, and when lightning toasts the TV they find that the company won't pay because they didn't buy a second protector for the cable TV connector. Or whatever.

My advice is to buy high-quality protectors, protect everything, and not worry too much about the guarantee. I also protect "in depth" by using multiple protectors between the wall receptacle and the equipment, on the theory that the first protector will shunt most of the surge to ground, the second will do the same for the portion that remains, and so on. Typically, my connection might go: wall receptacle -> first surge protector -> second surge protector -> UPS -> equipment. I've had most of my systems running 24X7 for years, through some horrible lightning storms, and there's never a problem. About the only time I turn them off is when the power goes out and it looks like it's going to be a while before it comes back on.

Incidentally, never use a surge protector between the UPS and the equipment. There have been reports of fires caused by doing this, and all major power protection companies recommend against doing so. The problem occurs apparently with inexpensive UPSs, which generate square-wave or modified square-wave power. A surge protector may see this output waveform as a constant series of surges/spikes, and attempt to smooth it. In doing so, it dissipates a great deal of power, and may overheat and cause a fire. Or so I've been told.

 


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