TTG Home Robert Home Daynotes Journal Home Journal for Week of 5 March 2001

photo-rbt.jpg (2942 bytes)Daynotes Journal

Week of 5 March 2001

Latest Update: Friday, 05 July 2002 09:16
 

Search Site [tips]


Order PC Hardware in a Nutshell from Fatbrain.com

Monday, 5 March 2001

[Last Week] [Monday] [Tuesday] [Wednesday] [Thursday] [Friday] [Saturday] [Sunday] [Next Week]
[TTG Messageboard]  [HardwareGuys.com Messageboard]

Thanks to everyone who has subscribed. If you haven't yet and you want to, click here for instructions

Well, I've installed Netscape Navigator 4.08 yet again and then uninstalled Netscape Navigator 4.08 yet again. I installed it because IE has taken a dislike to one of the sites I frequently visit. I'd added that site, Dr. Keyboard's Messageboard, to my Trusted Sites zone so that it could set a cookie. It uses that cookie to log me in automatically and to keep track of the last message I've read in each forum. 

For some reason, both those functions stopped working. I was also no longer able to get into the Administrators forum on that messageboard, even by manually entering my username and password. I tried deleting the cookie, but nothing I do makes the messageboard reset the cookie. Rather strangely, there's no "login" function I can find in UBB, the software that runs that board. I've tried resetting my profile options, thinking perhaps that would reset the cookie but to no purpose.

So I installed Netscape Navigator 4.08. Big mistake. Oh, it allowed me to get into the messageboard again, all right, but it wasn't worth the cost. As has happened every time I've installed Nav 4.X, whether under Windows 9X, NT, or 2000, the system started running slowly, with long pauses for no apparent reason. So I chose the uninstall option. 

That works, at least in the sense that it removes the exe file, but it's one of the most obnoxious uninstalls I've ever encountered. It doesn't clean up after itself. It leaves itself present in the Start menu. More obnoxiously, it leaves detritus scattered throughout the registry, most obnoxiously including the file associations that it's reset. After spending more than half an hour attempting to clean up my registry, I finally concluded that the fastest way to clean up would be to reinstall the operating system and all applications.

I hate Netscape. Version 6.0 (whatever happened to 5.0?) is one of the worst pieces of software I've ever seen. In many respects, it's a downgrade from 4.08, which is nothing to write home about as it is. Version 4.08 itself is inferior to version 4 of IE, and grossly inferior to version 5 of IE. Every time I've installed any version of Netscape Navigator on one of my systems, I've had cause to regret it. So, to avoid temptation in the future, I've deleted the entire Netscape directory on my distribution server. I'm also thinking of blocking netscape.com on my gateway server to prevent myself from ever visiting that site again and in a weak moment downloading one of their poor excuses for a software package.

Let's not mince words. Internet Explorer sucks. It just doesn't suck as bad as anything made by Netscape. In absolute terms, IE is a very poor piece of software. But in relative terms, it's about two orders of magnitude better than Navigator. Navigator is so bad that it makes IE look good.

It never ceases to amaze me that people continue to use Navigator. Granted, it's a dying product, as the web access reports of everyone I've talked to show. Three years ago, Navigator was still on at least an equal footing with IE. A year ago, Nav still had something like 25% or 30% of the market. Lately, that's really been plummeting. Dr. Keyboard mentions that more than 93% of his readers use IE (98% of those IE5). I'm not sure what the numbers are for my sites, but I suspect they're not quite that high. Probably 75% IE, 20% Nav, and 5% everything else. Even so, Navigator is clearly a dead product. I sure wish a browser I could love would come along soon.

I got a nice email yesterday from the president of ahead software, the makers of Nero Burning ROM. In it, he mentions that an increasing number of CD writer manufacturers are bundling Nero, and attributes that at least in part to the strong recommendations that Jerry Pournelle and I have given to that software. I never thought of myself as influential before, but it's an interesting concept. Doesn't fit with my self-view, though.

Our new telescope arrives today. We'd feared the forecasted winter storm would delay its arrival, but that storm never showed up. According to UPS tracking, there are three boxes, one weighing 70 pounds (32 kg), one 30 pounds (14 kg), and one 2 pounds (1 kg). I'll have pictures up at some point, probably showing me unable to figure out how the thing goes together. I knew I should have majored in engineering.

Click here to read or post responses to this week's journal entries

Click here to read or post responses to the Linux Chronicles Forum

[Top]

Tuesday, 6 March 2001

[Last Week] [Monday] [Tuesday] [Wednesday] [Thursday] [Friday] [Saturday] [Sunday] [Next Week]
[TTG Messageboard]  [HardwareGuys.com Messageboard]

Thanks to everyone who has subscribed. If you haven't subscribed yet, click here for instructions

Yet another school shooting, and yet another group of talking heads mouthing platitudes about how horrible it all is and how much they grieve for the families. During the press conference, I was hoping that at least one reporter would be brave enough to stand up and say something like, "Given that you had a zero-tolerance weapons policy in effect, how was it possible for this to happen?" But no one did. When the principal of the school stepped up to the microphone, I commented to Barbara that I was surprised that she was still the principal. If she hadn't been fired, she should have had the decency to resign. Barbara said that it wasn't her fault, and my response was that, if it wasn't her fault, whose fault was it? 

The shooter's, certainly, but it's not enough to blame only the shooter as though this were a natural disaster like a lightning strike or a flood. You might as well blame the dam when there's a flood or the air when there's a tornado. It goes deeper than that. Our schools are seriously broken, and no one is accepting responsibility for that. It's easy to blame the problem on society in general, but that really means blaming it on no one at all. Doing that simply takes us back to equating school shootings with natural disasters, with the implication that there's nothing to be done about them. I refuse to accept that. 

Beyond the obvious culpability of the student who did the shooting, the entire school administration (and, by extension, school administrations everywhere) are at fault. The principal, the superintendent of that school system, the school board, and indeed the California Superintendent of Public Education (or whatever his title is) should all have resigned immediately. They failed miserably at their primary responsibility, which is to return students undamaged at the end of each school day. If they can't succeed at that fundamental task, they need to step aside and let someone else get the job done properly.

It was reported that the shooter was smiling after his rampage. Of course he was smiling. He was happy. He'd finally gotten back at the people who had been making his life miserable. The school system didn't protect him, so he finally took matters into his own hands. When you put kids in a pressure cooker and block the safety valve, something is going to give. And too often the result is one of those kids shooting up a school. So what's to be done? Here are a few suggestions for starting points:

  • Stop trying to force oil and water to mix. Jocks are jocks, and nerds are nerds. Never the twain shall meet. Stop trying to force associations between groups that don't want to associate. If the jocks want to associate only with other jocks, the nerds only with other nerds, the blacks only with other blacks and the whites only with other whites, let them. Stop forcing them together. They'll get together naturally if you don't force it, but they'll get together on their own terms. Let each group have its own turf, and let students associate with others of their own choosing.
  • Go back to the tracking system that used to be standard. Stick the geniuses in Track 9 with the other geniuses, and the dummies in Track 1 with the other dummies. That way, everyone profits. The geniuses work at their own rate, as do the dummies. Everyone learns to the best of his ability. The modern method is to mix them all together, which is stupid. Putting kids with IQ 160 in the same classroom as kids with IQ 85 simply makes all the kids unhappy. The geniuses are bored and the dummies simply see no reason even to try. No one learns anything, and everyone is stressed out. Of course, the root problem here is that school administrators tend toward the IQ 85 range rather than the IQ 160 range. Obviously, there are exceptions, but in general we have mediocre people, or worse, making the fundamental decisions about educating our young people.
  • Bring back corporal punishment. Young people misbehave, and two million years of evolution has endowed all of us with a sure signal that we should stop doing what we're doing. It's called pain, which is the root of the words "punishment" and "penitentiary". In the absence of pain, misbehavior continues. As kids see that they can get away with doing whatever they want, their depredations become more serious. Ultimately, the complete absence of control results in shootings. Judicious application of a paddle or a cane to the rear ends of kids who misbehave stops things before they get out of hand.
  • Eliminate bussing and start classes at a reasonable hour. There's something clearly broken about a system that requires children to get up as early as 0430 in order to make a school bus. Kids need a solid 8 hours of sleep, and 9 or even 10 hours would be better. We have an entire generation of kids suffering from sleep deprivation and the stress that causes. Our whole system is built around the stupid idea that it's okay to have kids standing waiting in the dark for a school bus at 5:30 or 6:30 in the morning. We need to return to neighborhood schools and put the school day on a par with the typical work day. Classes should begin at 8:30 or 9:00 and end at 5:00 or thereabouts. Kids should be able to sleep until 7:00 or 7:30 a.m. and still have time to get up, get showered and dressed, have breakfast, and still be able to walk to school in time for their first classes.

Obviously, there aren't any easy or quick fixes. That's only to be expected, as the schools have been going downhill for 30 or 40 years now. But one definition of insanity is to keep doing something that doesn't work, and on that basis our school administrations are clearly insane. It's time for a change.

The new telescope is here and assembled. I posted the following message to one of the telescope mailing lists last night:

UPS delivered our new XT10 about 4:30 this afternoon. Barbara and I assembled it after dinner, which took an hour or so. Amazingly, every little part was present, and everything lined up perfectly.

Even though I'd also bought one of the Orion laser collimators, I didn't want to mess with it quite yet so I eyeballed the collimation. That's all we had back in the good old days 30 years ago, which is the last time I owned a scope. I figured what was good enough for Grandpa should be good enough for me. I was surprised to see that the scope eyeball-collimated right out of the box. Apparently, the UPS shipping gorillas neglected to give this one their typical loving care. Once we got it together, we gave it a few minutes to cool (proud of our restraint) and then went out to take a look.

I don't know why everyone always complains about the arrival of a new telescope boding ill for weather conditions. Our weather was perfect. The temperature was 22F with sustained winds of 20 MPH and gusts to 30 MPH. Cloud cover was only 9.5/10. All of that was made up for by the seeing, however, which was at least as good as trying to read a newspaper at the bottom of the deep end of a swimming pool.

First Light was Luna. I don't know where all these craters, maria, and rills people keep talking about are, because Luna looked to me like a featureless bright white globe with clouds roiling across its surface. And even Luna was hard to find, given that the finder scope wasn't yet aligned and the clouds were dense enough to make it disappear entirely. I think I did spot one star, though. Not sure which one. A Telrad is definitely on our must-buy list.

But for all of that, we're excited to have our new scope up and working. Barbara assisted by watching, finding pieces, offering critical comments during assembly, and taking shots of the process. The hardest part was getting the base assembled. It's finished fiberboard, which goes together with large screws. Overall, the level of fit and finish was surprisingly high for a Taiwanese telescope at this price level.

xt10-1.jpg (56351 bytes) xt10-2.jpg (50291 bytes)

By the time I got to Step 167 (only kidding), it was actually starting to look like a telescope. Well, more like a mortar, actually. The catalog emphasizes that this is a large telescope, and suggests that people consider its size carefully before ordering it. I don't think of it as big, but at 60 or 70 pounds (30 kg), it is large, heavy, and awkward enough to give most women pause. Us Real Men, on the other hand, will have no problem with it at all.

xt10-3.jpg (68455 bytes)

Finishing up. One of the problems with a Dobsonian scope is that they're very careful balanced so that they swing easily in both altitude and azimuth, which makes it easy to track celestial objects. But that balance can be affected by stuff, like eyepieces, that one installs at the front end of the scope. Some eyepieces, colloquially called "hand grenades", can be six inches long and weigh a pound (500 g) or more. Putting that much weight that far forward can make the scope "droop" towards the horizon. Orion uses the grandly-named CorrecTension system to prevent that. All it really is is a couple of heavy springs that place additional tension on the altitude bearing surfaces. It's a simple concept, but it works well and is cheap to implement. No other scope manufacturer does it. I wonder if Orion was actually able to get a patent on it. The left image shows me installing one of the springs. The right one shows me trying to figure out how to mount the finder scope.

xt10-4.jpg (44414 bytes) xt10-5.jpg (51296 bytes)

As is always the case, the weather is rotten when a new scope arrives. After suffering through 9.5/10 cloud cover, Barbara and I gave up for the evening. An hour or so later, we took the dogs out for their last walk of the evening. Not a cloud in the sky, naturally. I suggested to Barbara that we squeeze the dogs to encourage them to get their business over with quickly and then hurry back home to see what we could see. She was not enthused about that idea, probably because the wind chill was still well below freezing. Oh, well. There'll be other nights.

Click here to read or post responses to this week's journal entries

Click here to read or post responses to the Linux Chronicles Forum

[Top]

Wednesday, 7 March 2001

[Last Week] [Monday] [Tuesday] [Wednesday] [Thursday] [Friday] [Saturday] [Sunday] [Next Week]
[TTG Messageboard]  [HardwareGuys.com Messageboard]

Thanks to everyone who has subscribed. If you haven't subscribed yet, click here for instructions

Clear skies last night, but we didn't get the scope out. When we took the dogs out for a walk after dinner, I noticed that the skies looked great other than a few clouds. There were Luna, Jupiter, and Saturn, sitting in velvet black skies. Well, as black as they get around here, which is to say about Zone 4. I suggested to Barbara that we get out the scope, but she vetoed that idea because of the weather. I ask you, the temperature was 34F (1C) and the winds were 30 MPH (48 KPH) sustained with gusts to 39 MPH (63 KPH). Should that deter a serious hobbyist?

Now, it's true that the winds were making it a bit hazardous outdoors. There were large branches falling from the trees, large enough to kill or at least seriously injure anyone they struck. But surely there'd be a cracking sound or some kind of warning before we were impaled by falling flora. That small "tree" to the left of the larger tree is actually a branch that plummeted 30 or 40 feet and stuck fast in the ground. Not something we wanted to be standing under. (The blurriness, incidentally, is because I shot this through the bathroom window and the storm window had some dirt on it.

newtree.jpg (113760 bytes)

When I wrote the above last night it was true, but about nine o'clock I decided to fire up the laser collimator and see about lining up the scope. As it turned out, it's slightly misaligned, but I didn't feel like removing the mirror cell, center-spotting the mirror, and taking the other steps necessary to collimate it properly. That can wait until later. But while I was in the basement working I stuck my head out the back door and noticed that the clouds had disappeared and the wind had dropped. So I convinced Barbara to come down, drag the scope out back and give it a shot. It worked pretty well on Luna, especially since it wasn't collimated yet. What I really wanted to do was get the finder scope aligned, but I never did get that done. Still, the grab, twist and point method works pretty well at low powers. I think a Telrad finder is on our list for early acquisition, though.

It's time for some heads-down work on a couple of chapters, so updates are likely to be short and sweet for the rest of the week. I'm working on Chapters 1 (Fundamentals) and 2 (Working on PCs), so if anyone has any comments, criticisms, or suggestions about them, now is the time to tell me.

Click here to read or post responses to this week's journal entries

Click here to read or post responses to the Linux Chronicles Forum

[Top]

Thursday, 8 March 2001

[Last Week] [Monday] [Tuesday] [Wednesday] [Thursday] [Friday] [Saturday] [Sunday] [Next Week]
[TTG Messageboard]  [HardwareGuys.com Messageboard]

Thanks to everyone who has subscribed. If you haven't subscribed yet, click here for instructions

I sent out a test mailing this morning to my subscribers' list, telling them where to order the Encyclopedia Britannica 2000 DVD Edition for $19.95. If you received that mailing, you need do nothing (unless, of course, you want to order the DVD). If you're a subscriber and you didn't get that mailing, please let me know.

I just finished reading a book Barbara got me for Christmas^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H Winter Solstice, called The Ultimate Jack the Ripper Companion. I've probably read 20 or 30 Jack the Ripper books over the last 30 years, but this one is different. All of the others do a great deal of theorizing about the identity of JtR  but present few facts and little or no documentary evidence. Most of them skew the information they do present to favor whatever suspect they're advocating. 

This book is different. It concentrates on providing the actual source documents--everything from the PC's original incident report for each of the murders to correspondence between senior executives of Scotland Yard and the Home Office. No theorizing here, and precious little narrative. If you can imagine a book that comprises 600 pages of police reports and bureaucratic memoranda, you'll have a good idea of what this book is like. Not something you'd like read for relaxation--unless you're as strange as I am--but an invaluable collection of data for any Ripperologist.

The number of the Ripper's victims has always been uncertain, with various contemporary observers setting the number as high as nine. Informed opinion, both at the time and now, is that the Ripper had exactly five victims. My own belief has always been that he really had only four, and that one of the two victims in the "double murder" was in fact killed by her own common-law husband. The book presents a couple of interesting documents that tend to support that view.

As to who the Ripper was, I have no more idea than anyone else does. The police had definite ideas at the time, but, as is often the case, knowing someone is guilty and proving that in court are two different things. The amazing thing is that interest in the Ripper remains at such a high level so long after the events. Ripper books sell in large numbers, even though buyers know that what they're likely to get is just a re-hash of the same old story.

The Ripper killed four or five women in a particularly grizzly way, but that in itself is inadequate to explain the continuing fascination with the case more than 100 years after the fact. The Ripper was neither the first nor the most prolific serial killer, nor were such crimes unheard of even at the time. Similar serial killings occurred on the Continent and in America during the same period. The killings were unusual, yes, but not enough so to explain the continuing fascination. I think the immortality of Jack the Ripper is due solely to the name, given him by a newspaperman who no doubt had no idea that that name would resonate down through the ages. 

At any rate, if you have a serious interest in Jack, this is definitely a book you'll want to read.

The more I work with Windows 2000, the less happy I am with it.  Weird stuff keeps happening. The latest, which I think I mentioned, is that my screen saver has simply stopped working. Everything is there, everything is enabled, but it just doesn't work. I've tried choosing a different screen saver, resetting the timeout period, checking the registry, and so on. Nothing works. The screen saver appears to be enabled, but it never kicks in. Pournelle suggested running RegClean several times, so I did it. The first pass cleaned up a lot of junk that Netscape had left behind. The second pass said there were no errors. So did the third. But on Pournelle's advice I kept running RegClean. After five more passes, all of which told me my registry was error-free, I decided that was enough. But the problem still exists.

And there are other problems. For example, when I click on a live URL in an email message Outlook sometimes brings up a new instance of IE and displays the link. Other times, it pops up a warning dialog telling me that IE is not my default browser. Each time, I tell it to make IE the default browser, and each time that works for a while. But eventually, I get the message again. This is only for links within email messages. Clicking a link within a web page or a clicking a shortcut on my desktop works every time. I think Netscape left a virus on my system. Well, not really, but it may as well have.

This is my main system, so my options are limited. I considered installing SP1 (I'm running the original release code) but I've heard enough reports of problems with SP1 that I'd really hoped to hold out until SP2 is available. That's assuming that it'll actually do anything. Microsoft seems to have a different outlook about bugs, depending on what type they are. Security bugs get fixed. Well, most of them do. But for bugs that are merely aggravating, Microsoft's attitude seems to be "buy the next version of the software." I suppose I should try doing a repair installation on my main system, but even that scares me silly.

I think what I'll eventually do is revert to NT4 Workstation SP6a. Granted, NT4 has its share of aggravations, but it sure seemed a lot more stable and a lot less hinky to me. Rather than mess with my current main system, I think I'll take the next project system we build (a Celeron/800), install NT4W on it, and convert that to my main workstation.

Work on the second edition of PC/Nutshell continues. I'd hoped to have the first two updated chapters to my editor by Friday afternoon, but I suspect it'll end up being Monday morning. That's the same thing as far as he's concerned, of course. If you have any comments, criticisms, or suggestions about Chapters 1 and 2, now is the time to get them to me. You can post your comments on the HardwareGuys.com messageboard in the PC/Nutshell forum.

Click here to read or post responses to this week's journal entries

Click here to read or post responses to the Linux Chronicles Forum

[Top]

Friday, 9 March 2001

[Last Week] [Monday] [Tuesday] [Wednesday] [Thursday] [Friday] [Saturday] [Sunday] [Next Week]
[TTG Messageboard]  [HardwareGuys.com Messageboard]

Thanks to everyone who has subscribed. If you haven't subscribed yet, click here for instructions

If you run Windows 2000 and are thinking about installing the latest version of Roxio Easy CD, there's something you need to know. There's been some interesting discussion this morning on the Daynotes.com backchannel about Adaptec/Roxio Easy CD Creator 5.0, all occasioned by this article by a guy whose Windows 2000 system was fatally poisoned when he installed Easy CD 5.0. That's not an issue for us. We use Nero Burning ROM, which works and works well on every platform we use, including Windows 2000. Interestingly, there appears to be a geographic divide when it comes to choice of CD writing software. Most of us in the US seem to prefer Nero, while many of our British Commonwealth members seem to prefer Easy CD. Very strange.

My problems with Windows 2000 continue. The latest weirdity is that Outlook 2000 won't die. That is, when I exit the program it appears to go away, but the new mail icon still pops up on the task bar when new mail arrives, even though the program is supposed to be closed. A quick check of Task Manager shows that the process OUTLOOK.EXE is still running. The downside to that is that I frequently do xcopy backups during my working day, and when the Outlook process is running it keeps my PST file open, which means it can't be backed up. 

The only way to close Outlook for real so that I can back up my data is either to reboot the system or to use Task Manager to kill the Outlook process. Rebooting the system solves the problem temporarily. That is, after a reboot, closing Outlook actually closes it. For a while, anyway. Before long, though, the problem returns. Several people have suggested that I install Windows 2000 Service Pack 1 and/or Office 2000 Service Pack 1. I'm loathe to do that, though, because I've heard of enough problems with those SPs to make me very cautious about applying them. That and my suspicions about what Microsoft is doing behind the scenes. I no longer trust them, and every time I apply an SP I always wonder just what Microsoft nasties I'm installing along with the bug fixes.

Several people have commented about my intentions to revert to NT4 Workstation SP6a. They tell me that that's not a practical solution, because I won't be able to run the latest and greatest version of Visio or whatever. But the point is, I don't care whether I can run the latest and greatest version of anything, because I'm not convinced that the latest and greatest does anything at all for me. I'm sure it does a lot to further Microsoft's cunning plans for World Domination. But for me? Nothing at all.

It'd be one thing if the L&G versions actually fixed bugs present in earlier versions, or even if they added functionality useful to me. But that's almost never the case. At one point, I had a list of the ten most aggravating bugs/missing feature in FrontPage 98. I had high hopes for FrontPage 2000, but, of those ten problem areas, NOT ONE was fixed in FrontPage 2000. So much for upgrading. And, before you ask, I no longer have the list.

Others have commented that it's difficult or impossible to buy new copies of older versions. Fine. If I buy a new computer with a Windows 2000 license, I feel completely within my rights to strip off Windows 2000 and install Windows NT4 on that system. I know that technically that's no longer allowed by the license agreement, but morally and ethically I have no problem doing it. The license agreement is unreasonable in that regard (and in many other regards as well). For that matter, if I build a new system to replace an old system, I have no ethical/moral problem with transferring the software from the old system to the new one, no matter what the license agreement might state. If I have a license to use the software on a system, it's no business of Microsoft's which system I choose to use that software on. 

In legal terms, of course, Microsoft and other large software companies have succeeded in stacking the deck against users by successfully lobbying for the passage of such abominations as UCITA and DMCA. But there's an old concept in law that says that unconscionable contracts are not enforceable, and the changes over the last few years in both the law and in software contracts have made them unconscionable in my opinion.

In practice, none of this is an issue for me. If I want a particular Microsoft product, I just email one of my contacts at their PR agency and the software shows up the next day FedEx.

The revised version of Chapter 1, Fundamentals, goes to my editor today. Thanks for all the feedback. I've incorporated several of the suggestions I've received both by private mail and on the messageboards. Incidentally, several of those who sent private mail commented that they did that rather than posting their comments publicly because they didn't want to criticize in public. The criticisms were very minor anyway, but even if they aren't, please don't hesitate to make them publicly. No book is perfect, and I know ours isn't. Anything that helps make the next edition a better book is a good thing.

Click here to read or post responses to this week's journal entries

Click here to read or post responses to the Linux Chronicles Forum

[Top]

Saturday, 10 March 2001

[Last Week] [Monday] [Tuesday] [Wednesday] [Thursday] [Friday] [Saturday] [Sunday] [Next Week]
[TTG Messageboard]  [HardwareGuys.com Messageboard]

Thanks to everyone who has subscribed. If you haven't subscribed yet, click here for instructions

When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. --Sherlock Holmes

On that basis, I've determined the problem with Windows 2000. Demonic possession. There's no other explanation. I ran RegClean until I was blue in the face. No change. I applied SP1. No change. I reinstalled IE. No change. I uninstalled and re-installed Office 2000. No change. So, demonic possession it is. It's as good as any other explanation. I think I'll just live with it until I can upgrade to NT4 Workstation.

We were finally able to get some real observing in with our new telescope last night. Barbara and I hauled it up to the front of the house and left it sitting on the front porch all afternoon and evening to cool down. Our front yard isn't ideal for observing, not least because of the streetlights and passing cars, but it does have the indisputable advantage of putting the stuff we wanted to look at in our line of sight. The back yard is darker and more sheltered from the wind, but it is surrounded by high trees.

Once we got the scope around front, the first order of business was to get the finder scope aligned. For doing that, the ideal object is something easily identifiable like a church steeple that's a mile or so away. We didn't have anything like that, so I picked a streetlight 500 feet or so down the street. Not infinity, but close enough for a rough alignment. (I knew streetlights had to be good for something). With the streetlight centered in the main scope at low power (50X), I used the adjusting screws on the finder scope to put the crosshairs on the streetlight. I then swapped out eyepieces to medium power (139X) and did some minor twiddling to get the crosshairs exactly aligned. At 139X, we were able to read the printed labels on the light fixture.

Last night we managed to score Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, Luna, the Pleiades, Betelgeuse, and several other "easy" objects. Saturn was Barbara's favorite, of course. I prefer Jupiter. We tried for M42, but there were tree branches in the way no matter where we put the scope. We spent an hour or so out there, but by then the temperature had dropped to about freezing and there was a stiff breeze. We'd accomplished what we wanted to do--seeing something--so we packed it in and came in the house. The scope now sits in the living room/library, and Barbara seems happy to have it there.

Barbara and I both concluded that we need More Power, at least for looking at planets. So I'm going to order a 3-element apochromatic 2X Barlow. I was undecided between the Orion 3-element FMC 2X Barlow and the Celestron Ultima 2X Barlow, so I asked the Magic 8-Ball that Barbara got me for Winter Solstice. It couldn't make up its mind until last night, when it finally chose the Orion unit.

I wonder what the neighbors would think if I shot out all the streetlights and cut down all the trees. Hmmm.

Barbara is off to the park to meet one of her friends from Border Collie Rescue. She's taking only Duncan along this time (Malcolm got to go last time), so Duncan and the other Border Collie(s) will have a good time running around.

I'm going to jump back into Chapter 2, Working on PCs. If you have any comments about that chapter, please post them to the PC/Nutshell forum over on the HardwareGuys.com messageboard. The chapter looks to be in pretty good shape as it is, so I suspect I won't need to make many changes.

Click here to read or post responses to this week's journal entries

Click here to read or post responses to the Linux Chronicles Forum

[Top]

Sunday, 11 March 2001

[Last Week] [Monday] [Tuesday] [Wednesday] [Thursday] [Friday] [Saturday] [Sunday] [Next Week]
[TTG Messageboard]  [HardwareGuys.com Messageboard]

We taped the last Inspector Morse episode last week on PBS, as well as the one hour special on the making of Inspector Morse that preceded it. I was struck by one irony in the latter. Morse is Oxford-educated and famously pedantic. In one clip, his sergeant uses the construct "If I was ...", which Morse corrects to "If I were ...", advising his sergeant that he'll never get ahead in life if he can't master his subjunctives. Then, toward the end of the program, Morse is talking with the forensic pathologist. During that conversation, he, Morse, uses the phrase "I'll try and ..." rather than the proper "I'll try to ...". If one is going to make a point of something, one really must get it right. 

It should be a quiet day today. Laundry and house cleaning this morning. Barbara will watch the Winston Cup race this afternoon while I work on Chapter 2. Then we're off to Barbara's parents' house for dinner.

Thanks to everyone who has subscribed. If you haven't subscribed yet, click here for instructions

Click here to read or post responses to this week's journal entries

Click here to read or post responses to the Linux Chronicles Forum

[Top]

 

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