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Daynotes Journal

Week of 28 January 2002

Latest Update: Friday, 10 May 2002 12:57


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Monday, 28 January 2002

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8:56 - I spent the weekend working on chapters, and that's how I'll spend this week and next week as well. Actually, what I'm doing is kind of fun. It's about ten times easier to update chapters than write them in the first place, and much of what I'd done earlier on these chapters counted as a full re-write rather than an update.

The tech review drafts of Chapter 4, Processors, Chapter 5, Memory, Chapter 6, Floppy Disk Drives, Chapter 7, High Capacity Floppy Disk Drives, and Chapter 8, Removable Hard Disk Drives are available for download by subscribers on the Subscribers' page. I hope to have Chapter 9, Tape Drives, and perhaps Chapter 10, CD-ROM Drives, up later today. If you're not a subscriber and want to be, click here.

10:50 - Several people have pointed out that the link for Chapter 8, Removable Hard Disk Drives, was actually pointing to the file for Chapter 7, High Capacity Floppy Disk Drives. That's fixed now. Sorry for the confusion.

18:50 - Chapter 9, Tape Drives, is now available for download on the Subscribers' page. Revising this one took me most of the day, much longer than I expected, so there won't be another chapter up until tomorrow. Neither Barbara nor I got much sleep last night--the dogs were terrible--so we're both pretty whacked. I'm not going to try to do any more tonight.



Tuesday, 29 January 2002

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10:12 - As expected, putting chapters up for download has had a big effect on my daily bytes-transferred stats. Yesterday was the biggest day yet, at about ten times my normal daily bandwidth. I'd thought about upgrading my account level to twice the daily bandwidth allowance to make sure I didn't get hit with any huge overage charges, but as it turns out I don't think that'll be necessary. pair Networks figures things on a monthly basis, but based on a daily allowance. They first throw out the heaviest day during the month, so yesterday won't count toward my allowance at all (unless I have an even heavier day between today and Thursday). They then average the remaining days and compare that average to my daily bandwidth allocation. If the average is higher than the daily allocation, they charge something like $2 for every 10 MB/day that the actual exceeds the average. Even if the next three days were as heavy as yesterday, I still wouldn't exceed my allotted daily average, so I'm not worried.

Speaking of chapters, I should have have Chapter 10, CD-ROM Drives, and perhaps Chapter 11, CD-RW Drives, up later today. I'm blasting through this stuff as quickly as I can, consonant with accuracy and completeness. I'll finish the rewrite on the original 26 chapters plus the rewrite on the two new chapters I've already completed as quickly as I can. Then there'll be a short pause while I complete additional new chapters.

There's a new episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on tonight. Barbara and I gave up watching the two daily episodes on the FX network last week after they got to the episode where Faith was introduced, at the beginning of the third season. That's where we started watching the show, so we're caught up. Just in time, too, because I don't have time to watch two hours of Buffy episodes per day now.

11:52 - Chapter 10, CD-ROM Drives, is now posted on the Subscribers' page. If you're not a subscriber and want to be, click here.

20:52 - Chapter 11, CD-R and CD-RW Drives, is now posted on the Subscribers' page. Other than short breaks for dinner and so on, I've been working on this one for nine hours straight. I just did something I'd never done before. I included a note to my editor asking if it was wise to include some material. That material covers copying copy-protected CDs, and with the DMCA and Skylyarov, I wonder if it's safe to include it. I suspect we'll end up pulling it from the published version. What a pity that we now have to look over our shoulders for the RIAA/MPAA Gestapo.



Wednesday, 30 January 2002

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8:35 - Emperor George II is in town today. When I first read about Mr. Bush's visit in the newspaper the other day, my first thought was that the purpose of his trip was to visit me, perhaps to get my advice about airline security or to ask my opinion of the speech he gave last night (which I didn't watch). That turns out not to be the case. Oh, well. He would have been no more welcome in my home than would any politician anyway.

I think the preparations being made for his this visit are disgusting. They are closing off large areas of downtown, forbidding aircraft to take off or land at the Smith-Reynolds and Piedmont Triad International airports, enforcing a no-fly zone around Winston-Salem, and so on. I can't even guess how many members of the Praetorian Guard are here, prepared to shoot any local citizen who steps out of line. But what I find truly incredible is that they are shutting down Business Interstate 40 during the imperial visit.

All of this is supposedly to ensure the safety of Mr. Bush, as though ensuring the safety of any politician were a worthwhile goal. Political assassinations are, after all, just an extreme form of voting, and voting should be encouraged in a democracy. Of course, the US is no longer a democracy in any real sense, nor certainly is it the republic from which that democracy devolved. Wise men will mourn the Republic but embrace the Empire. Hail Caesar.

The tech review drafts of the first eleven chapters are all posted on the Subscribers' page. If you're not a subscriber and want to be, click here. Today, I'm working on Chapter 12, DVD Drives. I have quite a bit work to do on that chapter. Since I wrote the original draft, DVD-R and DVD-RW drives have become commonplace and, mirabile dictu, DVD+RW drives and media have actually begun shipping, only four years later than originally promised. So it's back to work for me. I hope to have Chapter 12 up later today, but it may be tomorrow morning.

13:32 - I'm still working hard on the DVD chapter, but there have been so many changes, particularly in writable DVD, since I wrote the first draft that I'm having to do a ton of re-write. I hope to have the chapter posted sometime this evening.

If you're at all interested in copy-protected audio CDs, this article about Cactus Data Shield is a must-read. Interestingly, a Plextor PlexWriter 24X drive didn't do well at ripping copy-protected CDs. If I ever have time, I may try using a Plextor SCSI drive to rip a copy-protected CD just to see how well it does. That's assuming I ever buy a copy-protected audio CD, of course, which isn't likely.

The sky is falling. Thanks to Wayne Ketner for forwarding me this article. It appears that a 3.5 ton satellite is going to fall sometime later today or tomorrow. Other than in general terms, they have no idea where it will fall. I hope there aren't any really big chunks in the assembly, or someone could have a very bad day.

20:40 - Chapter 12, DVD Drives, is now posted on the Subscribers' page. Other than short breaks for dinner and so on, I've been working on this one for twelve hours straight. I've been looking at it so long that there's no longer any point to continuing to revise it. I wouldn't notice an error if it jumped off the screen and bit me.

That makes Chapters 1 through 12 now available on the Subscribers' page. If you're not a subscriber and want to be, click here.


Thursday, 31 January 2002

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9:30 - It got up to 80F yesterday, which was a record. Not that I noticed, because I was at my desk all day updating the DVD chapter, which is available now on the Subscribers' page. Today, I jump into Chapter 13, Hard Disk Interfaces. I hope that won't take all day. I know I need to update the material about 48-bit ATA interfaces, but everything else should be in reasonably good shape. If that chapter goes quickly, I'll also start on Chapter 14, Hard Disk Drives. My tentative schedule has me getting through Chapter 16 by the end of this month, but that's not going to happen.

15:10 - Chapter 13, Hard Disk Interfaces, is now posted on the Subscribers' page. That makes Chapters 1 through 13 now available on the Subscribers' page. If you're not a subscriber and want to be, click here.

I did my bit in this chapter to introduce a new set of high-technology terms:

Don't bother telling us that binary values are actually kibibytes, mebibytes, and gibibytes, which use "bi" to indicate binary rather than decimal values. We're aware of this ill-considered initiative, and we don't know anyone who uses those words in real life. As an alternative, we propose everyone use the original definition of a kilobyte as 1,024 bytes, and substitute kidebyte, medebyte, or gidebyte when referring to decimal values. You heard it here first.

At least this one isn't a lost cause, like some I fight. For example, I've given up trying to convince people to pronounce gigabyte with a soft "g" sound. I remember having that discussion ten years ago, when gigabyte drives were just a dream. I thought I got in an excellent Parthian shot as I walked out the door, saying over my shoulder, "Well, no matter how you pronounce it, a disk that big is guy-gan-tic."

20:22 - Chapter 14, Hard Disk Drives, is now posted on the Subscribers' page. That makes Chapters 1 through 14 now available on the Subscribers' page. If you're not a subscriber and want to be, click here.



Friday, 1 February 2002

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11:25 - I'm running web stats this morning for my own sites and Pournelle's. Of course I forgot the 2002 changeover, so I still had the Analog configuration files pointed to webstats\ttgnet\2001\month and so on. I did notice something interesting while I was using pair Network's GUI account management tool for my site last night. They will run stats on the server if you configure it that way, but I haven't bothered because I'd have to keep the raw web logs on the server for that to work. Pournelle's raw logs average something like 10 MB/day uncompressed and 1 MB/day compressed, so keeping a year's worth of logs on the server would cause him to exceed his disk space allowance. My raw logs are smaller, of course, but even so I didn't want to use that amount of disk space storing up to a year's worth of logs.

So what I have been doing is downloading the raw log files on the first of each month, running them through Analog, which does DNS lookups on all the IP addresses contained in the raw log files, and then running Analog to generate the reports locally. The problem with that is that DNS lookups take a long time, even though I use a utility called AnalogX QDNS which allows me to thread 100 simultaneous DNS lookups. Near year-end, even that utility can take four or five hours to process Pournelle's raw data.

But when I was looking around in pair's web-based account management tool, I noticed that there's an option there to do the DNS lookups automatically and add the lookup data to the raw logs. So I enabled that for both my and Pournelle's accounts. It'll make the raw log files larger, of course, but the trade-off is that I won't have to do the DNS lookups before I run the reports.

Paul Robichaux is a familiar name to many of my readers. He's a well-known author for O'Reilly & Associates and other publishers on a variety of topics, including Exchange Server, the Windows registry, and Windows NT. Paul is one of those guys who, if he admits to knowing a little bit about something, is probably actually a world authority on the topic. He's now started keeping a daily web journal, which I plan to read regularly and encourage my readers to check out as well.

Back to working on the chapters. An author's work is never done...

20:39 - Chapter 15 Video Adapters, is now posted on the Subscribers' page. That makes Chapters 1 through 15 now available on the Subscribers' page. If you're not a subscriber and want to be, click here.


Saturday, 2 February 2002

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9:30 - Big article in the morning newspaper about today being palindromic. I suppose that's true, if you modify the rules to permit arbitrarily adding leading zeros. Most people would use the short-form 2/2/2, which is definitely palindromic, or 2/2/02, which is not. I think 2/02/02 is a bit of a stretch. Why not 02/02/02 or 2/02/2, or 2/2/2002, or 2/02/2002? Perhaps I should do a post tonight at 20:20 2/02/02.

My sympathy to those of you who depend on MSN for email service. Every time I do a mailing to subscribers, I get at least one bounce from an MSN address, and usually several. I did two mailings to subscribers yesterday. On the first, I got one delivery failure notification from an MSN account. On the second, I got three delivery failures. MSN bounce messages are singularly unhelpful, too. Other mail servers at least give me some idea of what went wrong--mailbox full, no such account, and so on. Microsoft simply says it couldn't deliver the message. If I resent the message, chances are it would get through to some or all of the people from whom it bounced the first time. But it's easier just to reproduce the messages here:

-----Original Message-----
From: Robert Bruce Thompson
Sent: Friday, February 01, 2002 11:41 AM
To: TTG Subscribers
Subject: Microsoft Windows 2000 Security Rollup Package

Microsoft has released Windows 2000 SP2 Security Rollup Package 1 (SRP1). It's available as a 17 MB download that incorporates all post-SP2 security patches to date. You can download the file from

I have downloaded it, but not yet installed it. I plan to await developments. As I mentioned recently, W2K SP2 included at least one hidden downgrade--a hard-coded limit of 10 connections for W2K Professional that broke the systems of a lot of people who had been using W2K Professional as an Internet server. We don't yet know what, if any, similar hidden changes are incorporated in W2K SP2 SRP1. If you do install it and are bitten by any hidden nasties, I'd appreciate you letting me know.


-----Original Message-----
From: Robert Bruce Thompson
Sent: Friday, February 01, 2002 8:52 PM
To: TTG Subscribers
Subject: Warning about using AGP video cards with Intel 845/850 and nFORCE motherboards

I just finished updating the Video Adapters chapter, which is now posted on the Subscribers' page. As I was doing that, I realized that one of the Warnings in that chapter may not be known to everyone, so I'll reproduce it here:

Heed this warning. With modern PCs, there are very few cases in which installing a non-defective PC peripheral that physically fits can damage the peripheral or the system. One big exception is motherboards that use the Intel 845 or 850 chipset or the nVIDIA nFORCE chipset. Due to improper design and keying, a few AGP adapters that are actually 3.3V devices are keyed such that they can fit a 1.5V slot. Furthermore, they handle the A2 line incorrectly. The upshot is that installing one of these cards in an Intel 845, Intel 850, or nVIDIA nFORCE motherboard will destroy the AGP adapter and/or motherboard. The following AGP adapters have been reported to exhibit this problem:

  • some nVIDIA Riva TNT2 adapters
  • all nVIDIA Vanta and Vanta LT adapters
  • all SiS 6326 and SiS 305 adapters
  • all S3 Savage4 adapters earlier than revision 3.0
  • all 3dfx Voodoo3, Voodoo4, and Voodoo5 adapters
  • some nVIDIA GeForce2 GTS and GeForce2 Pro adapters

Note that this list may not be complete, and that the documentation that came with the adapter may have been printed before the problem came to light. Before you install any older AGP adapter in one of these motherboards, verify on the card and motherboard manufacturers’ web sites that the card is compatible with the motherboard.

Speaking of the first message, Robin Whitson says you might want to think twice before applying W2K SP2 SRP1:

-----Original Message-----
From: Robert D Whitson
Sent: Friday, February 01, 2002 5:16 PM
Subject: Nastiness in W2K SP2 SRP1

I now have problems with Outlook 2000 and attachments that are exe files. OUTLOOK BLOCKS ACCESS TO POTENTIALLY UNSAFE ATTACHMENTS. So, I had to go to my Windows 95 machine with Outlook 98 to get those files.

I hate when Microsoft like the government decides what is best for me....


Which was exactly the kind of thing I was worried about. It sounds as though SRP1 applies the Outlook Security Patch, which is something that most readers of this site won't want to install on their copies of Outlook.

Jeff Poplin, one of the guys in the astronomy club, just took delivery of a 20" Obsession, shown here:

step-up.jpg (43776 bytes) new-owner.jpg (27051 bytes) photon.jpg (39797 bytes) 

When I got Jeff's email with these pictures, I instantly replied:

-----Original Message-----
From: Robert Bruce Thompson
Sent: Friday, February 01, 2002 6:57 PM
To: Jeff
Cc: Barbara Fritchman Thompson
Subject: RE: More NEW SCOPE News

You know, Jeff, I've been thinking that we ought to get to be better friends.

Nice scope. If you need somewhere to store it, I'd be happy to volunteer.

and then sent the following to one of the telescope mailing lists I belong to:

-----Original Message-----
From: Robert Bruce Thompson
Sent: Friday, February 01, 2002 7:05 PM
To: Talking Telescopes
Subject: I hate it when that happens...

Arrrrghhh. One of the guys in our club just took delivery of a new 20" Obsession. I just emailed him to say that we really need to get to be closer friends.

When the biggest scopes usually present at our club outings were 12.5" to 14", and one 16", I didn't feel like such a teeny little dweeb with my 10". But now that there'll be a big gun at club outings, I'm thinking I'm going to have to do something.

I keep trying to convince my wife that Real Men have BIG Dobs, but so far no luck.

Barbara is hosting a meeting of the executive council of her Border Collie rescue group today. She's cleaned out the downstairs area, which used to be my mother's living area. It was full of boxes, but now it's back to being a self-contained apartment. It's cool enough today that we'll probably ignite some logs in the fireplace.

I have to get back to working on chapters. Today I'll be working on Chapter 16, Monitors.



Sunday, 3 February 2002

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10:15 - I pretty much took the day off yesterday, and I'm going to take it easy today as well. I needed a bit of downtime. I used to be able to work 12+ hour days for weeks on end without a break, but I can't do that any more. I get mentally tired and can no longer concentrate well enough to do what needs to be done. Some down time this weekend will let me recharge a bit for the coming week.

Barbara's meeting went well, except for a couple things. First, a dog who was visiting urinated twice on the carpet. Nothing new there. The guy who brought the dog was mortified, of course, but Barbara told him our own dogs had had accidents. She just blotted it up with towels and sprayed carpet cleaner and odor killer on the spots. We need to clean that carpet again anyway.

Then, just as the meeting was breaking up, Barbara let Duncan and Malcolm into the downstairs area. They got into it. Malcolm's private name for Duncan is "Big Biter", with some justification. Although Duncan is an extremely gentle dog with people and most other dogs, he chomps Malcolm periodically, usually when Malcolm is getting in his face or "working" him. So Malcolm, reasonably enough, regards Duncan as a biting threat, and insists on protecting not just himself but humans from Duncan.

Neither Barbara nor I was looking when it started, but what we think happened was that Malcolm had jumped up on the sofa next to one of the women who was here for the meeting. She was petting him when Duncan approached them to get his share of the attention. Malcolm is particularly nervous when he's being petted, because when Malcolm was a pup, Duncan frequently nipped him when he was being petted. So Malcolm went into confrontation mode, leapt off the sofa, and he and Duncan got into a furball.

Barbara tried to separate them and got chomped on the hand by Duncan, unintentionally I'm sure. So I stood over them, put both hands down between them, and pried them apart, rather vigorously I'm afraid. One dog went flying in each direction.

It upsets Barbara when they fight, but I regard it as no more significant than two kids mixing it up. Both of these dogs weigh 65 pounds now, and both have fearsome fangs. If either of them were really serious about doing damage, he could rip the other's throat out. But they don't do that. It's mostly threat display, with an occasional equivalent of a bloody nose.

I think it's a mistake to separate them, because all that does is make the fight end in a draw. I think they're contending for dominance, and will keep doing it until one or the other concedes the top dog title. By intervening, we simply ensure that the title remains undecided. We have a large crate (large enough for Barbara and I to fit comfortably into at the same time). My suggestion is that we muzzle both of the dogs to prevent severe injuries, toss them into the crate together, and come back in a couple hours. By then, one of them should be top dog and the other should be willing to admit that.





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