TTG Home Robert Home Daynotes Journal Home Journal for Week of 23 April 2001

photo-rbt.jpg (2942 bytes)Daynotes Journal

Week of 23 April 2001

Latest Update: Friday, 05 July 2002 09:16
 

Search Site [tips]


Order PC Hardware in a Nutshell from Fatbrain.com

Monday, 23 April 2001

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

As Barbara was watching The Practice last night, I suggested a compelling plot line for an episode next season. A man decides he just won't take spam any more. He captures a notorious known spammer, transports him to Faneuil Hall Marketplace, where he tortures the spammer to death, pours gasoline over the corpse, and lights it. All of this with thousands of (cheering) witnesses, and in front of TV cameras from all of the Boston TV stations, all three networks, CNN, and so on. 

Bobby takes him on as a client. At his hearing, the spam-killer pleads not guilty, even though he admits he did it and says he'll do it again. They go to trial, and Bobby is stymied as to how to defend this guy. He admits he did it, shows no remorse, and says he'll do it again. Against Bobby's advice, the guy takes the stand to testify in his own defense, where he proves that the victim had sent out 100,000,000 spams in the weeks before his death, and explains why all spammers must die. The jury acquits the guy unanimously.

I've decided to notch up my own battle against spam. Most spammers use a return address from hotmail, yahoo, or one of the other providers of throw-away email addresses. So I'm adding these domains to my kill file, ensuring that I'll never see messages with a return address from one of them. The other major offender is aol.com, so I'll add that as well. I will make exceptions for subscribers who use addresses from one of those services, but other than that, messages from the offending domains go directly to the deleted items folder.

Fair warning. If you're going to send me mail and want me to see it, don't send it from an account from one of those email providers.

As usual, I ran web access reports this morning. My page count for the week was back up to just under 20,000, probably thanks to new visitors from Pournelle's site. And for the first time ever, I actually had one day (3,988 page reads) that was higher than one of Pournelle's (3,127 page reads). Granted, they weren't the same day, and it was my high day versus Pournelle's low day, but even so. But, much as I like having the additional traffic, I can't wait for him to get back and start writing again.

Good news from O'Reilly Saturday. The royalty statement for PC Hardware in a Nutshell for Q4/2000 finally arrived. Publishers don't like sales figures being made public, so I'll just say that the book more than earned out its advance during its first quarter. The next royalty statement will be the real proof of how the book is doing, though.

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, 24 April 2001

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

I implemented my spam filter yesterday morning by telling Outlook to move all messages with return addresses from yahoo.com, hotmail.com, excite.com, etc. to the deleted items folder, making exceptions for mailing list messages and so on. When I checked this morning, there were 162 messages in the deleted items folder. I scrolled down through the list, and all 162 of them were spam, with multiple copies of many of them. Three offering diplomas, six offering to tell me how to make $6,200/month, five offering Viagra by mail, more than a dozen of the same chain-letter message, a bunch offering junk penny stocks, another bunch telling me how my business can accept credit cards, and so on.

Ultimately, the problem here is that Outlook's mail filtering rules are inadequate. What I need is to be able to test based on the X-envelope-to: field in the header and compare the contents of that with the To: and CC: fields. If I could do that, I could completely eliminate spam without affecting messages sent directly to me. But Outlook doesn't offer that option in its rules. If I were a conspiracy theorist, I'd say that Microsoft wants to force us to read spam, because there's no other reason I can see that Outlook doesn't have that ability. 

Or perhaps Outlook does offer that option, but if so it's not documented. There is a choice on the exceptions list in the Rules Wizard which allows me to except messages sent directly to me. Perhaps that means messages in which my address is in the To: field. Even that's not perfect, of course, because the "to me" part implies a specific email address, whereas I get a lot of personal email addressed to different accounts in the ttgnet.com domain. Perhaps I should do some experimenting with Outlook rules to find out if I can kill spam without killing real mail. The trouble is, none of this stuff is documented very well if at all anywhere I can find, even in the otherwise superb Outlook 2000 in a Nutshell.

Oh, well. I'd better get to work. I want to have at least two and preferably three more updated chapters off to O'Reilly by the end of the month.

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, 25 April 2001

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

Sad news today for anyone who has been following the Kaycee Nicole saga. This brave young woman simply can't get a break. After she has struggled to beat cancer twice, it now turns out that her liver is failing and there is nothing to be done. Kaycee's spirit is indomitable but her body has let her down. Spare a moment today to think about Kaycee.

It appears that Outpost.com is headed down the drain fast. One of my readers sent me mail yesterday, quoting an article yesterday on Macintouch.com saying that Outpost no longer offers free shipping and had negotiated a settlement with some of its suppliers to pay them $0.24 on the dollar. A quick check of the Outpost.com web site shows that they have very little in stock. Formerly, nearly all their products were flagged as being available overnight. Now, most of them are showing at least 1-2 day delivery times, and many are showing 5-7 day delivery or "unavailable". Reading between the lines, it sounds to me as though a lot of suppliers have cut Outpost off. Nor, based on a few quick comparisons I did, is Outpost.com any longer particularly competitive on price, once you've taken their new shipping charges into account. So I won't be ordering anything from Outpost from now on, and I'd suggest that my readers be careful about doing so.

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, 26 April 2001

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

Barbara's new article for Library Journal is up. This one's about Mystery and Crime Fiction on the web.

I'm not feeling very well this morning. Barbara says there's some kind of bug going around, and I think I have it. I may just go lie down for a while.

 

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, 27 April 2001

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

It looks like Microsoft may be at it again. I came across this article in The Register this morning, which reports that the IE6 preview release creates registry keys in Windows 2000 that look an awful lot like XP registration/activation keys. Everyone seems surprised that Microsoft might be planning to retrofit copy protection, registration, and activation to earlier versions of their software. I'm not sure why that'd come as a surprise. I've been predicting it for a long time, and I've said repeatedly that Microsoft software "updates" are likely to be more for Microsoft's benefit than the users'. I don't trust any updates, hot fixes, or patches coming out of Redmond, and you shouldn't either. While a security fix may in fact patch a security hole, what else might it do? I don't know, and neither does anyone else outside Redmond.

But if you apply those fixes, sooner or later you're likely to find that you're unable to do something that you used to be able to do. You might find one day that you can no longer burn a copy of one of your audio CDs or that your older region-code free DVD player will no longer play DVDs from outside its nominal region or that your MP3 player will no longer play MP3s that you've ripped from your audio CD collection. Or it may be that you'll install a hardware upgrade only to find that your OS will no longer load until you contact Microsoft to get an activation key. But make no mistake: Microsoft's upgrades focus on controlling what you can do with your computer, and as time goes by that will become more and more true. Microsoft's ultimate goal is pay-per-play. They want you to pay each time you listen to a music track, watch a video, or load a program.

The article concludes, "Friends, there is no escape. Well all right, there is one, before you lot all start bombarding me again. It begins with L, OK?" In the long run, that's probably true. But in the short run, the answer is simply Just Say No to Microsoft upgrades and fixes. I have NT4 Workstation and Server, which are clean. I have SP6a, which is probably clean. If it isn't, I've squirreled away SP5 and SP4 as well. I have Office 2000. If that turns out to be contaminated, I also have Office 97. I have several earlier versions of Internet Explorer, and they'll install from disk without going out to visit Microsoft's site to download fixes I don't want. And the simple fact is that I can get my work done with these earlier versions. I don't need the new features in later Microsoft software, and no amount of cheese is going to lure me into Microsoft's mousetrap.

I'll focus my attention on getting my work done with the tools I already have and on learning new, non-Microsoft tools that will eventually replace what I'm currently using. I'll encourage my contacts at software vendors to develop Linux versions. The next new server I bring up will run Linux and Samba rather than a Microsoft OS. But when it comes to new Microsoft software, I'll Just Say No. I hope that millions of other people will do the same.

I'm thinking very seriously about removing Matrox video adapters from my recommended list. Don't get me wrong. I still love the 2D display quality that Matrox cards provide, and 2D is all that matters for 99.9% of what I do. Recommending Matrox used to be a no-brainer. They had superb display quality, more than adequate 3D performance, rock-solid drivers, and were readily available from just about anywhere that sold computer gear. Nowadays, they still have the superb 2D display quality, but all their other advantages seem to have gone away. 

A year or so ago, the 3D performance of the G400 series was competent, if not market leading. But a year has passed and Matrox has done nothing. The G400 is no longer a serious 3D card, having been surpassed even by entry-level cards from nVIDIA, ATI and others. The G400/G450 is now suitable for casual gaming, but not much more. Matrox has apparently cancelled development work on the G800, which means they've effectively abandoned the 3D market. That I could live with, but I can't live without solid drivers, and Matrox seems to have stumbled badly in this area as well. I've attempted to run G400-series cards on three different Windows 2000 systems, including a dual Pentium III, a Celeron, and a Duron. In each case, I've had nothing but problems with the Windows 2000 drivers, including the certified ones. In all fairness, many people report no such problems, but my own experience indicates that there is at least reason for concern.

Finally, I keep wondering what happened to Matrox's distribution. Even a year ago, I could buy a Matrox video adapter from nearly any vendor of computer components. That's changed dramatically for the worse. A few months ago, on my recommendation, Jerry Pournelle attempted to buy a Matrox G400-series card for a new system he was building. He spent a couple hours on the web and on the phone trying to get someone to sell him one. He failed. I had the same experience recently. I checked ten or so of my usual vendors. Most of them didn't even list Matrox products. Nearly all of those who did were showing all or most of the Matrox cards as back-ordered. One or two places advertised them as available, but when I called to order one it turned out that they were also out of stock. So I gave up. I'm sure that some Matrox cards are available, because many of my readers report buying and using them. But the point is that they're not easy to find, and I frequently get email messages asking me where to buy one.

With the departure of 3dfx, the retail video card market has become a two-horse race. You can choose between ATI cards or those that run an nVIDIA chipset. If you're really feeling adventurous, you can buy a Kyro-based card. So the question is, do I abandon Matrox and move on? I still love their display quality on Windows NT and 9X systems, but I'm afraid that the world is leaving Matrox behind. What do you think?

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, 28 April 2001

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

Today is Astronomy Day. As new members of the Forsyth Astronomical Society, we'd looked forward to participating but that's not going to happen. FAS won't be doing anything for Astronomy Day. Not because we don't want to, but because the lawyers have ruined it for everyone. What we'd planned to do was set up at a shopping center or mall--someplace with a lot of walk through traffic. The theory is that FAS volunteers get a bunch of scopes set up in the parking lot, put sun filters on them, and people wander over to see what's going on. Some tiny percentage of those people will suddenly realize that they're really interested in something they'd never thought about before. Best case, some of those new enthusiasts are kids.

But the lawyers have ruined it all. Why? Because every place we contacted either refused because they were concerned about liability, or insisted that we provide evidence that we as a club had liability insurance with very high limits. Steve Wilson, the president of the club, checked into that. When I spoke to him on the phone yesterday, he told me that a one-year liability policy adequate to meet the requirements would cost us about four times the entire annual revenue of the club. So instead of doing outreach this weekend, we'll just do club observations.

I'm not a big fan of the Astronomy Day concept, anyway. I can see that the idea of trolling large numbers of people might pay off with an occasional new member, but it seems to me that the public viewing sessions of the night sky are a much better way to spend our time. We hold those at the state parks at Pilot Mountain and elsewhere, and they draw quite a few interested people, some of whom may stick. One of the members last night mentioned the "Hale-Bopp Nightmare", which was before our time (and his). The FAS promoted a public observation of the Hale-Bopp comet, expecting that perhaps a few score people would show up to see Hale-Bopp through a telescope. They underestimated the level of interest a bit. The police later estimated that something like 9,000 people showed up. The roads were literally choked, and it took hours to get the traffic jams cleared. Let's see, 9,000 people showing up to share maybe twenty telescopes. Yep, that one worked out beyond the organizers' wildest dreams.

Speaking of club observations, the weather was so nice that we headed up to Bullington last night. I called around to several other club members and found that only a couple were free. Several said they were also considering heading up to Bullington last night and/or tonight. We told them we'd be there both nights. There are several women in the club who are either single or whose partners have no interest in astronomy. Bullington is a rather isolated place, and many of the women are rightfully concerned about being up there by themselves. So we'll head up again tonight, and I expect there'll be half a dozen or more others up there with us.

Oh, yeah. Note to Mr. Burglar. There'll be three rather large and very territorial dogs roaming free in our house tonight. And I'm leaving my mother the Model 1921 Thompson submachine gun with the drum magazine. Very nice weapon, that. Its cyclic rate is between 900 and 1,000 rounds per minute, much faster than the 1928A1 and later models, so it's really great for chewing up burglars. That's all upstairs, though. Downstairs is a lot safer. Of course, I will let George out of his terrarium. George is a 7-foot Western Diamondback rattlesnake with a very nasty temper. He's shedding his skin right now, which always makes him even crabbier. Our vet keeps suggesting that we have George defanged, but I don't go in for that sort of 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]

Sunday, 29 April 2001

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

We managed to get my mother out on the deck yesterday. She has Stage IV degenerative rheumatoid arthritis, which means her world is generally limited to her lift chair and the only walking she does is the step or two back and forth between her lift chair and the potty chair. So we like to get her out whenever possible. The weather was beautiful yesterday, so Barbara got Mom into her wheelchair and out to the deck, where she spent an hour or so. The dogs, of course, kept Mom company most of the time.

dogs-and-mom-deck-1.jpg (261239 bytes)

We indeed did go up to Bullington for an observing session again last night, and had a great time as usual. Two of the other Forsyth Astronomy Club members, Priscilla Ivester and Bonnie Richardson, showed up. We spend as much time sitting around in the dark talking as we do observing, but that's fine. As we were packing up, Bonnie remarked that she enjoyed observing sessions "with just the girls". Thanks, Bonnie. Here are some shots of Barbara getting set up before dark, aligning the finder scope, I think.

bullington-1.jpg (241554 bytes) bullington-2.jpg (242190 bytes) bullington-3.jpg (212968 bytes)

When we got home we couldn't find George. He likes to hide and, being a rattlesnake, can get into some pretty small spaces. Usually, it's pretty easy to find him because when you're getting warm you hear a rattling sound. But George is shedding his skin right now, which means his rattle doesn't work very well. The poor thing wiggles his tail, but no sound comes out. Must be very frustrating for him. I suspect his buddies--if he had any--would taunt him about being a rattlelesssnake. When all else fails, putting out a saucer of milk always works, though.

(P.S. Barbara insists that I tell everyone I'm kidding about the rattlesnake. But I really would like to have a pet rattlesnake, and I would name him George.)

(P.P.S. After reading that, Barbara tells me that I can buy a pet rattlesnake if I want to. But if I do, she divorces me and moves out. For some reason, Barbara doesn't like snakes. Any snakes. She even calls the drain snake a drain auger. So I guess this is going to remain a snake-free environment, unless I can talk her into letting me get a rattleauger. Oh, well.)

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.