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Week of 2 July 2001

Latest Update: Friday, 05 July 2002 09:16
 

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Monday, 2 July 2001

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My efforts to get this HP 6200C scanner running have come to naught. I've tried every combination of things I can think of. Various people have been kind enough to email me updated versions of the HP software or post them on their sites for me to download. I've tried using several different machines under Windows 2000 and Windows 98SE, and under USB and SCSI. Someone suggested that the scanner might have a hardware problem, but that's not it. I have system crashes simply from installing the software without ever having connected the scanner (and, yes, HP says that's the way to install it--software first, then hardware). I've tried doing it both ways, but nothing works. I have one last ace in the hole. Theodore, our main server, still has the HP software installed and presumably still functional. So, after I get this update finished and posted, I'm going to relocate theodore from under my desk to under my credenza. I have to do that because the only HD50 external SCSI cable I can find is only about 2.5 feet long, and things don't work physically with the server under my desk. So theodore gets moved, along with a UPS to handle it.

The skies looked pretty decent after dinner last night, so we decided to head up to Bullington. We called Bonnie Richardson, who lives north of us, and she said her skies looked pretty good as well, and she'd meet us up there. So we drove up to Bullington, arriving about 9:00. When we got there, the clouds had moved in and there was frequent lightning on the southeast horizon. There were a couple of gaps in the clouds, however, so the three of us sat in our truck awaiting developments. Around 10:30 the cloud cover was about 8/10 and it seemed that the lightning wasn't going to approach. We finally decided to set up the scopes, but it all went for naught. We did get a couple of quick glimpses of the moon and Mars, but things clouded over to about 9.8/10. We finally packed up about 11:30 and headed home.

Just before we reached home, we encountered a DWI checkpoint. There were, no exaggeration, fifty or more police vehicles. Everything from twenty or more city police patrol cars to a row of fifteen motorcycles, to a giant DWI enforcement van. There were city cops, county sheriffs, state troopers, DWI enforcement agents, and probably Secret Service, FBI, Scotland Yard, and GsG-9 for all I know. We ran a quarter-mile long gamut of police vehicles and traffic cones before arriving at the choke point.

I was in favor of shooting our way out and making a run for it, but Barbara was driving so she stopped at the choke point. We were polite, of course. It always pays to be polite when surrounded by large numbers of armed men. But I have two questions: First, who is protecting the rest of the city while all these cops congregate at the DWI checkpoint? I don't know how many city cops patrol on each shift, but this certainly must have been all or most of them. In fact, I'd guess they probably had a lot of plainclothes cops working the checkpoint as well as some working overtime. It would have been an ideal time to rob a store or carjack someone elsewhere in the city. And second, what is their probable cause for stopping people who are simply going about their lawful business? I'm sure the courts have rationalized away our Fourth Amendment rights, but it enrages me that police officers can get away with simply stopping people who have done nothing wrong and who have given the police no probable cause whatsoever to suspect that they have done something wrong. 

Situations like this remind me of the old war movies where the Gestapo demand, "Your papers, please." I always have an almost overwhelming urge to reply in German to the cop. In fact, I did so once (purely unintentionally, of course) when the Airport Nazis demanded my papers. After he handed back my identification, I asked the Kommissar, "Ist alles in Ordnung?, half expecting him to reply in German. In retrospect, I was kind of surprised they didn't haul me off, shine a bright light in my eyes and beat me with rubber hoses. Nazis are Nazis no matter what language they speak.

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Tuesday, 3 July 2001

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I solved the HP 6200C problem quickly and easily. I bought another scanner. I did a quick web search, looking for unbiased advice. Not that I really needed much. What I was really looking for was people's experiences with various models. The models from UMAX, including their inexpensive ones, get pretty good reviews from users. I decided on their low-end model, the Astra 3400, which does everything I need to do. It retails for $80, everyone on the web sells it for $70, and there's a $20 rebate in effect, making the final cost $50. At that price, it can be considered disposable. I think when it arrives I'll use a Magic Marker to write "If this has problems, throw it away and buy another one" on the top of the lid. Just as a reminder to myself, you understand. I hate being beaten, but after wasting days of effort on the 6200C, I keep thinking of the old advice: Pay the man the two dollars.

I ended up ordering the scanner from Outpost.com, which I've always liked. They've had some financial problems lately, but they've always shipped me what they said they'd ship when they said they'd ship it. They no longer offer free shipping, which was probably the major reason for their financial problems in the first place, but UPS Ground from Ohio cost only $6 and the scanner should be here in less than a week.

Barbara tells me that she's headed for Atlanta Saturday. Her friend Marcia Bilbrey, whom she's never met, is going to be in Atlanta for a business conference next week. Marcia kindly agreed to save her company some money by flying in Saturday rather than Monday. Marcia was on her own with nothing to do Saturday night and Sunday, so Barbara is going to pick Marcia up at the airport and spend Saturday and Sunday night with her before heading back here. I suggested to Barbara that she take Malcolm along, but she just laughed.

My gateway box, meepmeep, is misbehaving again. It randomly locks up for no apparent reason. It did it half a dozen times yesterday. What's very strange is that I've encountered this problem before, more than once, and it goes away on its own. A few months ago, it was doing the same thing. I'd decided to replace it, but it stopped locking up and other projects took priority. Now it's started locking up again. It's in a cheap Pacific Rim case, so I've always suspected the power supply. I think it may also have a stick of no-name memory in it, so that's a good possibility too. But a reboot always cures the problem, at least for a while, so rebuilding the system has never made it too high on my to-do list.

I suppose I could replace it with a better box, but that'd involve reinstalling and reconfiguring WinGate, which would in turn require tracking down my serial number and init key, figuring out how I'd secured the box, etc. More work than it's worth. I keep thinking I'll replace the gateway with either a Linux box or a baby router like the LinkSys, but I've never gotten around to it. There are several considerations about using a Linux box, not least of which is FrontPage's broken proxy support. In order to publish this page every morning, I have to fire up FrontPage on meepmeep and publish from there. FrontPage claims to support proxy servers, but it doesn't really. That functionality has been present and non-functional since at least FP98, and I think FP97. Microsoft has never gotten around to fixing it. That shouldn't be a problem with a NAT, so maybe I'll just order a LinkSys baby router and have done with it.

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Wednesday, 4 July 2001

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Happy Birthday, USA (although I still say it should be celebrated 2 July).

I'm not allowed to say anything yet, so please don't ask me for any more information, but if I were considering buying a CD-RW drive I'd wait until July 23rd.

Bob Walder is out jogging this morning with Benson in what Bob describes as stifling 70 degree heat. Everything is relative, I guess. Here in North Carolina we have a different term for "stifling 70 degree heat". We call it "cool". If Bob tried jogging over here in our typical July weather--95F with 95% humidity--he'd probably drop dead.

There's no such thing as an accident nowadays. Every accident has to be someone's fault. Even if no one was breaking any laws, no one was careless, no one acted with any malice, and no one did anything wrong, someone has to be charged. There was a bass fishing tournament on a local lake a couple of weeks ago. Two boats collided, and one of them sunk. A teenage girl was drowned. At the time, everyone who witnessed the accident and the law enforcement officers who investigated it said that it was just an accident. Neither boat driver had been drinking. Neither was speeding. Neither acted with any malice. Neither was careless. There was a blind spot near shore and the boats simply collided.

This morning the paper announced that one of the boat drivers had been charged with involuntary manslaughter and led off in handcuffs. His boat was moving at about 35 MPH, within the speed limit, when the other boat appeared from the blind spot. They were less than 40 yards apart when they first saw each other. Both boats turned sharply to avoid the collision, but unfortunately both boats turned toward shore and ended up colliding. The driver who was charged unfortunately swerved left, whereas federal boating law says that boats are to pass each other to the right. And his swerving left is the reason he was charged with manslaughter.

Now, I'm sure he knew that he was supposed to pass on the right, just as all of us know that we're to drive our cars on the right. But the man was trying to avoid a collision, with something like a two-second window to react and take action. Obviously, in seeking to avoid the collision, he thought swerving left offered a better chance of avoiding the collision than swerving right. And on that basis he's been charged with manslaughter. Not that he was driving on the wrong side of the road, you understand. Just that he swerved left because he thought that offered a better chance of avoiding the collision.

Years ago, I was driving on the Interstate up near Washington, DC at rush hour when a wreck happened a quarter mile or so in front of me. Cars swerved all over the place, including onto the median, to avoid the pile-up. There might easily have been a chain-reaction multiple wreck, but as it happened there were no other collisions. But if there had been, would the cops have charged people with passing to the left or driving on the median? I don't think so. Obviously, they weren't doing those things routinely, but were attempting to avoid becoming involved in the wreck themselves. When a crisis develops with no notice, one does what one can to minimize the damage. If that requires driving on the median, passing to the left, or whatever, that's what one does.

So this man has been charged with manslaughter simply on the basis of an unfortunate outcome. He used his best efforts to avoid a collision, but failed. No one claims that he acted carelessly or maliciously, or even that his judgment was poor. Even the cop at the scene said the collision was unavoidable. So why is this guy charged with manslaughter?

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Thursday, 5 July 2001

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On the Linux router versus hardware router question, thanks to everyone who's responded. I think I'm going to order a baby hardware router, probably the LinkSys 1-port unit. The last time I looked, it was under $100. Everyone who's using one seems to have good experiences with it. There were a few minor niggles, but those appear to be with earlier ROM versions and have since been corrected.

As to why I'm going with the baby router, several reasons:

Primarily, the baby router is a quick solution. I suspect that it will take me a half hour or less from the time I unbox it until it's up and working. And once it's working, it's just an appliance that'll sit there working without any attention. The Linux solution, even if I used a packaged product like LRP would require much more of my time, and time is a commodity in short supply around here.

Second, I'm confident that I can lock up the baby router adequately to prevent being attacked. With Linux, I'd always be afraid that I'd locked the front door and in my ignorance left the back door standing wide open.

Third, our Internet connection is critically important. With the baby router, I'm confident that I have a complete understanding of how it works and what to do if it breaks. With the Linux box, I'd be using something for a critical function with an imperfect understanding of how it works. With my current gateway, which runs NT4 Workstation and WinGate on a PC, I'm completely confident that I understand both the hardware and the software, so if something breaks I can fix it. The same thing would be true of the baby router, except of course that one doesn't repair hardware in that case. The Linux box, on the other hand, would be pretty much a black box to me. I've had numerous offers of help from many real experts in Linux, and I appreciate all of them, but I like to be self-supporting.

So I've decided to go with a baby router, although I'm not ruling Linux out by any means. As I've said repeatedly, my next server will be a Linux box, but it will be behind the baby router, at least initially. At some point, I'll have developed enough confidence in my Linux knowledge to use a Linux box as my gateway, at which point the LinkSys baby router will be put on the shelf to be used in an emergency.

Once again, thanks to everyone who responded with suggestions and offers of help.

I host my web sites at pair Networks, and they're a pretty good choice for that. They're up nearly all the time, and resolve problems quickly. But their business sense is sadly lacking. Here's an email I received from them yesterday, in which I blanked out my customer ID number:

-----Original Message-----
From: billing@pair.com [mailto:billing@pair.com
Sent: Wednesday, July 04, 2001 10:07 AM 
To: ttgnet@mx1.pair.com 
Cc: thompson@ttgnet.com 
Subject: Credit Card Expiration Notice (?????)

The credit card currently on file for Customer ID ????? at pair Networks is listed with an expired date. Most likely, your credit card company has issued a new expiration date to you, or a new card, or you may wish to begin using a different card or payment method. We must receive the new expiration date, or new card information, as soon as possible, in order to process charges due on your account. If we do not receive this information, your account will become past due and may be suspended as delinquent. Please submit the new information using one of the following methods:

- fax: (412) 381-9997 
- securely online: https://www.pair.com/pair/submit.html

If you only need to send a new expiration date, you may simply do this via e-mail to billing@pair.com, if you prefer.

Thank you for attention to this matter.

Billing Department, 
pair Networks, Inc 
billing@pair.com 
http://www.pair.com/billing/ 
fax (412) 381-9997

To which I replied:

What charges are due on my account?

And then after researching my records of invoices from and payments to pair Networks:

I pay by the year. My account was last billed in March and shows a zero balance due. I have received no invoice for additional charges, nor do I believe that I currently owe you anything. On what basis are you claiming that my account is past due and threatening to suspend it as delinquent? As far as I can see, I'm current through next March.

I haven't heard back from them yet, but as far as I can determine this is just their heavy-handed way of telling me that they'd like to have my current credit-card information on file. So why the statement that my account will become past-due and the threat to suspend it? I've paid in advance for a year. Furthermore, I've been a customer of theirs for something like three years now and have never been delinquent in paying the bill. So what kind of business threatens a customer whose account is current?

Hmmm. Barbara was out yesterday afternoon talking to our next door neighbor. He'd just taken down a small tree in his yard, and commented on a couple of dying poplars in our yard. He offered to help me take them down, so Barbara arranged that we'd do it Friday morning. By my estimate, those poplars are about 600 feet (183 metres) tall, although I will confess that my estimate may be influenced by the fact that I'm the one who'll have to take them down. Barbara claims they're not more than 60 feet tall, but that's easy for her to say.

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Friday, 6 July 2001

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Every couple of weeks I check AnandTech and Tom's Hardware. I found the following on Tom's Hardware yesterday:

Happy Independence Day!

225 years ago the 'Second Continental Congress' of the US drafted the 'Declaration of Independence' after the 13 'United Colonies' had won the war of independence (1775-1776) against the British Empire. The way was led to create one of the most impressive nations in the world. It took hard work and a lot of suffering too, until the US finally became the economically as well as military powerful nation it is today, based on the high principles of freedom and democracy.

You know that I am European, or German, to be more exact, so please forgive me that I won't say more about US-history, just to avoid any mistakes. What I do want to have a look at on this 4th of July 2001 however is the word 'independence'. In many ways 'independence' is one of the most important and symbolic things for what the USA is all about.

Oh, well. Most Americans probably wouldn't do much better with European history. I suspect if you asked most Americans whether Germany declared war on Britain in WWI and WWII or vice versa, most would probably say that Germany declared war on Britain. And if you told them that the War of the Roses was between Lancaster and York, two small countries in Eastern Europe, most of them would probably believe you.

As it turns out, I did owe pair Networks some money. They charge $1/month for a virtual domain. I added the hardwareguys.com domain to my account last June 19th, and the annual bill for that domain ($12 less the discount for paying for a year in advance) came due a couple weeks ago. But I still blame pair Networks. What they should have done was send me an invoice 30 days or so in advance of when the bill came due. What they did instead was wait until July 4th, attempt to charge my credit card, find that the credit card they had on file for me had expired, and then send me a dunning letter that told me I was past due and threatened to cut off my service. Note that they never did send me an invoice or tell me what I owed or why. They simply sent me a message threatening to cut off my service. That message made no mention of how much I owed or what I owed them for. 

I immediately visited their secure site and provided updated credit card information. I then emailed pair to tell them that I considered their behavior unbusinesslike. You don't dun a customer for an unpaid invoice if you haven't sent that invoice to the customer. They responded:

We're sorry for the wording of our invoices, that warning is intended to let you know that the expiration date has passed. We really don't mean to infer that we will cut off services.

Thank you for submitting your credit card information, the charges will be credited to account.

Please let us know if we may be of any other assistance.

Hmm. They kind of missed the point. I wasn't the "wording of our invoice" that disturbed me, because I never got the invoice. It was the wording of the nastygram they sent. Note to pair: send invoice first. If invoice isn't paid, then send nastygram. Not converse. And, for that matter, you don't ever charge someone's credit card without explicitly telling them that you're going to do so.

The good news is that the new UMAX 3400 scanner arrived yesterday afternoon. The bad news is that when I connected it to my Duron system it didn't work. I'm not too concerned, though, for two reasons. 

First, the Duron/Windows 2000 system I attempted to install the scanner on had previously had the HP scanning software installed on it. That's enough to poison any computer, and the only sure solution is to fdisk down to bare metal and reinstall the OS. 

Second, the computer itself may be the problem. It runs a VIA KT133 chipset, and VIA chipsets are notorious for USB problems. Of course, VIA chipsets are notorious for problems, period, including long-standing conflicts with video, sound cards, and IDE drives. UMAX has a tech support document posted about problems with Windows 2000 and USB. They make the following significant statement: "Most Intel, SIS, and ALI chipsets fully support USB devices." No mention of VIA chipsets, which most people who read that document will probably assume was just an oversight. It's not, unfortunately. 

The truth is that USB is not nearly as simple as manufacturers make it out to be. The original specification was too loose, and a lot of systems and peripherals were built with deficient USB hardware. The Intel 82371SB USB controller, the first to support USB, is notoriously buggy, so much so that getting any one USB device to function with it is a crapshoot and attempting to get multiple USB devices connected and working simultaneously is nearly impossible. OS USB support prior to Windows 98 was extremely spotty, and many USB drivers are of poor quality. Some USB peripherals hog the channel, which is why UMAX recommends disconnected all USB peripherals other than a keyboard and mouse.

The best strategy for getting USB working properly is to use a system with a late-model Intel chipset and to connect devices only to root ports. So that's what I'll do with this scanner.

The Law of Unintended Consequences strikes again. Davidson County, a small county to the south of us, has had nine cases of rabies recently, so the county commissioners decided to do something about it. What they did was pass a new law requiring rabies vaccinations for all pets, with penalties for non-compliance. Nothing new there. All counties, including Davidson, have had similar laws on the books for years. What was new was the amount of the fines. Rather than the typical $50 to $250 one-time fine, the new Davidson law assesses a fine of $100 per day for anyone caught with a unvaccinated pet. 

When the animal control director came to work Monday, she expected to find that a pet or two would have been dropped off. Instead, she found that 118 cats had been abandoned. And animal control officers report a large increase in the number of stray dogs and cats. Many people are unwilling to pay the $10 cost of a rabies vaccination--which says a lot about those people--and so drop their pets off at animal control to be destroyed or simply abandon them to run free.

When we were out observing last weekend, Bonnie Richardson mentioned that there was a public event this evening at SciWorks. People are invited to come out from 9:00 until 11:00 and view Mars, Luna, Uranus and Neptune. Oh, well. Someone didn't plan things properly. Nautical twilight ends at 21:48, so until then only the very brightest objects will be visible. Astronomical twilight doesn't end until 22:29, half an hour before the scheduled end of the event.

Moonrise isn't until 21:44 local. I'm not sure what the local southeast horizon will be like at SciWorks--that depends somewhat on where we set up--but Luna certainly won't be high enough to be easily visible until near the scheduled ending time. Neptune is worse. It doesn't rise until 21:58 local, and its visual magnitude is 7.7. Just finding Neptune will be a problem, and even once found it's a relatively unimpressive object for casual observers. Its apparent size is only 2.5" of arc, which is to say nearly ten times smaller than Mars, which is a small ball itself. At best, Neptune will appear as a tiny bluish disk. Uranus is worse still. Although at visual magnitude 6.1 it is brighter than Neptune and at 3.6" somewhat larger, Uranus doesn't rise until 22:51, nine minutes before the scheduled ending time.

But Marsrise is at 18:47, so by the 21:00 starting time Mars at least will be well up and visible. At 20" and visual magnitude -1.9 it should be an impressive site. Impressive, that is, to astronomers. I'm afraid that the general public will find it somewhat boring. When you want to impress the general public, you show them Jupiter, Saturn, and (particularly) Luna. Of course, SciWorks has an ace in the hole. If the weather is bad or if there's nothing interesting to see in the real sky, they can always fall back on their planetarium.

At any rate, we'll be there just before 9:00 to set up our scopes. The weather is supposed to be clear, but even if it's cloudy we'll still be there. It wouldn't do to have the public show up and have none of us there to greet them. Duke Johnson, an astronomy club member and the Director of Programs at SciWorks, will be there no matter what, so if nothing else we'll keep him company. Bonnie Richardson said she'd be there, as did Priscilla Ivester. So at the very least we should have half a dozen club members and half a dozen or more scopes. Whether there'll be anything to look at is the real question.

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Saturday, 7 July 2001

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The weather-liars got it right for once. We drove over to SciWorks about 8:00. There were some clouds, but most of them cleared off as the evening progressed, leaving Mars clearly visible for the public viewing. We took both scopes along and set them up. There were about a dozen other club members present with scopes, including three scopes that belong to the club. One of them was a 4" Unitron refractor, dating from the mid-1960's, which is a pretty impressive scope. Another was a 12.5" reflector, currently mounted as a Dobsonian, that actually dates from the mid-1950's. That must have been a real crowd puller back then. When I got involved in amateur astronomy in the mid-1960's, a 6" equatorial reflector was the "standard" amateur instrument. If you had an 8", you had a big scope. I'd guess that in the mid-1950's a 12.5" reflector was probably the largest amateur instrument in the state, and probably one of the largest in the entire Southeast.

As we were setting up, I pulled out our new Telrad finder and shouted "who's the best Telrad installer in the club?" Steve Wilson, the president of the club, came over and offered to install the Telrad for me. It's a two-piece unit, with the finder itself and a separate base. The base is about 8" long and has two rails angled to fit flush to a round telescope tube. The bottom of each rail has double-sided sticky tape, and from what I'm told once that tape sticks it's stuck. On a painted metal tube, like ours, you can pry the base off, but it will take the paint with it. On a Sonotube (cardboard) tube, pulling the base off actually rips the tube up. So I wanted to get it on straight to start with. Steve eyeballed the fit with the peel-off covering still on the tape, decided that it would fit nicely between the focuser and the existing finder base, pulled off the peel-off covering, and stuck the base onto the tube.

The Telrad is just like the heads-up reflex gun sights used in WWII and Korean War era fighter planes. It doesn't provide any magnification. You just look through it at the actual sky and see a red bullseye projected on the sky. The first outer ring is 4 degrees and the third (smallest) ring is 1/2 degree, which corresponds almost exactly to the apparent size of the full moon. Steve got the thing aligned perfectly. For the first trial, I put a 4.9mm eyepiece (256X) in the scope. That eyepiece has a true field of view in that scope of almost exactly 1/4 degree. I put Mars dead-center in the Telrad bullseye. When I looked through the eyepiece, there was Mars dead center in the field of view. One uses the Telrad with both eyes open, so it's trivially easy to put what you want to look at in the field of view of the scope. 

Steve said I might as well just throw away the 8X50 finder that came with the scope, and I see his point. Once you use a Telrad, you're spoiled for anything else. I'll probably pull the 8X50 finder and store it in case we ever have an accident that damages the Telrad. The other reason to pull it is that there's now more weight on the front end of the scope. I was kind of expecting it to be out of balance enough that it would droop, but it didn't. Or not much. I did notice that when I got something centered in the Telrad and let go of the scope it would droop from the center of the bullseye toward the top. Removing the 8X50 will lighten up the front of the scope enough that that shouldn't happen.

At any rate, we got set up just in time, as people started to arrive right at 9:00. At that point, there wasn't a lot to see. Mars was up, but was low enough that we were looking through a lot of haze. We could make out a couple of blurry surface markings, but that was about it. As usual, a line of people formed at our Dobsonian scope. We were probably in second place in terms of the number of people who wanted to look through our scope. The Unitron was first place. I suspect a lot of the reason for people queuing up at our scope is that it looks different. Everyone expects a telescope to look like a standard refractor, so when they see our Dobsonian, which looks more like a mortar, they're curious.

We also had our new small refractor set up, and I was quite pleased with its performance in every respect but one. The finder supplied with the scope, a 6X30, is actually not bad optically. But the mount uses six screws, three front and three back, for alignment. I found it very difficult to align the finder scope, but I did eventually get it done. A short while later I was helping people on our Dobsonian while Barbara was working the refractor. She called over to tell me that the finder scope was out of line. I checked it and sure enough it was grossly out of line. Someone had apparently bumped it. When you combine difficult alignment with inability to hold alignment with awkward placement, that finder scope has to go. I'm going to order another Telrad. 

The only problem with that is that the refractor is equatorially mounted, which means that we'd need to rotate the tube periodically to keep the Telrad in a usable position. What I'd like to have is some sort of rotating collar that would be a fairly snug fit for the optical tube. That way, I could simply twist the collar with the Telrad attached around to a convenient position. Oh, well. I'll figure something out. That 6X30 finder really has got to go.

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Sunday, 8 July 2001

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I got email from Brian Bilbrey last night to tell me that Barbara and Marcia had arrived at the hotel safely and were going out for food (or shoes, the message was somewhat garbled).

I thought about going up to Bullington to observe last night, but we had something like 5/10 cloud cover here and our experience has been that it's usually cloudier at Bullington than it is here. I called Bonnie Richardson, and she didn't seem enthusiastic about the idea. The upshot was that she was willing to go if I wanted to go, and I was willing to go if she wanted to go, but neither one of us really wanted to go, so we didn't. Unfortunately this time of year there are usually clouds no matter what the weather liars forecast. They claim it'll be partly cloudy today and clear tonight, but I'll believe that when I see it. If it does clear up I may go up tonight.

The screen saver on my main system has stopped working again. Windows 2000 is just bizarre. It worked fine on Friday during the day. I didn't install any software or make any changes to the system. Friday evening I noticed that the screen hadn't blanked, so I went in and checked the settings everything was as it should be. I changed the settings to a different screensaver and saved the settings. No joy. I changed back to the original default screen saver (blank screen). No joy. I really wanted my screen to blank, so I went into power management and told it to power down the monitor after 30 minutes of inactivity. When I came back later, my monitor was displaying an out-of-sync-range signal and flickering garbage all over the screen. So I'm reduced to calling up Display Properties -> Screen Saver and clicking on Preview to blank my screen manually. Geez. Windows 2000 still isn't ready for primetime.

Every week or so I get an email from a reader of PC Hardware in a Nutshell asking if I can post the original photographs from Chapter 26 (Building a PC). So I decided to post them on the HardwareGuys.com web site. The original photographs were taken with an Olympus D-400Z digital camera at 1280X960 resolution in SHQ (super high-quality) mode. That generates 400 KB to 600 KB JPEG files, which are too large to download conveniently unless you have broadband. So I used IrfanView to increase the JPEG compression level to reduce the file sizes by half or more. Frankly, I can't tell much if any difference between a 450 KB version and a 150 KB version, although I'm sure it'd show up under magnification.

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