TTG Home   » Robert Home » Daynotes Journal Home » Journal for Week of 18 March 2002
Photograph of Robert Bruce Thompson
Daynotes Journal

Week of 18 March 2002

Latest Update : Sunday, 24 March 2002 09:11 -0500

Click Here to Subscribe
Linux Chronicles
Visit Barbara's Journal Page

Monday, 18 March 2002

[Last Week] [ Monday ] [Tuesday] [Wednesday ] [Thursday] [Friday] [Saturday] [Sunday] [Next Week]
[Daynotes Journal Messageboard] [ Messageboard ]
9:00 - I really must do something about my main system. It's becoming routine for it to reboot spontaneously overnight, and yesterday it spontaneously rebooted while I was running my weekly full backup. Also, it's only a Pentium III/750 or /800, so the other kids are starting to laugh at me. This system was really only intended as a stop-gap. A year or so ago, I started having problems with my then-main system, a dual-processor Pentium III. As usual, I was pushed for time, so instead of building myself a new main system, I simply snatched one of the test-bed systems and started using it.

I suppose I should have learned my lesson, but again I'm pushed for time, and again there's a test-bed system beckoning. That system is a Pentium 4/1.7G with 512 MB of RAM, an 80 GB Seagate Barracuda ATA IV hard drive, and a 16X Plextor PlexWriter. It has an ATI Rage video card, I think, so I should probably replace that with a RADEON. That system is now running Windows XP Pro, but the little box down in the corner tells me I have only 6 days left for activation.

Since it's going to die anyway, I might as well strip it down to bare metal, install a RADEON, and put Windows 2000 on it. There's no tape drive in it, but I have tape drives all over the place, so I'll probably just leave it as is. Or perhaps I can dig out a SCSI host adapter good enough to run a tape drive. I don't want to waste an Ultra160 SCSI adapter on this system.

One way or another, I'll have a box that doesn't spontaneously reboot. This was going to be my Linux workstation, but I need a trustworthy Windows workstation more at the moment. And I do have all the components to build a new Pentium 4/2.2G system sitting in the dining room.

I wrote about this yesterday, but it's worth repeating for those who don't read my journal on weekends:

Someone may finally be doing something about the DMCA/SSSCA rights grab. appears to be a rallying point for consumers who are sick of having their fair-use rights trampled by the music and movie industries and their congressional lackeys. Interestingly, it doesn't appear this new group is asking for money, just for your support. I haven't investigated the group. For all I know, it could have been set up by the music and movie industries to deflect real opposition. But it does appear to be saying and doing the right things. The web page even provides a means for you to enter a message that will be faxed to your congressman.


Tuesday, 19 March 2002

[Last Week] [ Monday ] [Tuesday] [Wednesday ] [Thursday] [Friday] [Saturday] [Sunday] [Next Week]
[Daynotes Journal Messageboard] [ Messageboard ]
8:37 - I'm still using my old system. Just after I posted my journal entry yesterday, I got email from Robert Denn, my editor at O'Reilly. The Production folks had finished flowing the manuscript into Frame, and found that it totaled about 900 pages. The budget for the book was 700 pages. Not good. Even if O'Reilly wanted to print the whole manuscript, they couldn't, because the binding method they use for Nutshell books has a maximum page limit, and 900 pages is too much.

So I called Robert and talked over what needed to be done. He allowed that we might be able to split the difference, or at least do a 60:40 on it. That meant I needed to cut the manuscript by at least 100 pages, and preferably more. So I spent all day yesterday chopping and trimming. Not to worry, though. I cut mostly in large blocks, and those blocks will be posted on the web site, with pointers to them in the text.

The book was already reasonably tight, but nothing I removed really damaged it. Without the ability to post that material to the web site, the book might have been harmed, but most of what won't be in the book is reference material that's of limited use to most readers. So I think we got it worked out, although I won't be sure until O'Reilly says I've cut enough. If I need to cut more, that's going to be harder, but I'm sure I'll figure something out.

My guess is that the final book will total 800 to 825 pages, including front and back matter. A nice boost over the 500 pages of the current edition.

Surprisingly enough, the CND on my main system failed yesterday, so I was able to use it all day long without a spontaneous reboot.


Wednesday, 20 March 2002

[Last Week] [ Monday ] [Tuesday] [Wednesday ] [Thursday] [Friday] [Saturday] [Sunday] [Next Week]
[Daynotes Journal Messageboard] [ Messageboard ]
9:13 - Yesterday I finally got around to rebuilding the P4 system for use as my main system. It's an Intel D845WNL motherboard with Pentium 4/1.7G processor and 512 MB of Crucial PC133 SDRAM in an Antec SX840 case. There's an 80 GB Seagate Barracuda ATA IV hard drive, which is more than sufficient, and a Plextor PlexWriter 16X CD burner. I was thinking about replacing that with a 24X or 40X Plextor, but the truth is that 16X is plenty fast enough for everything I do. I did pull the ATI Rage128 video card and replace it with a RADEON. The only other change I made was to install an Adaptec 2906 SCSI host adapter and a Seagate TapeStor 24 DDS-3 tape drive. All of that should be more than adequate as my main system for quite a while.

When I carried the box back into my office, plugged it into the Belkin KVM, and turned it on, it came right up under Windows XP. The system complained about not having been activated, and warned me that I had only five days left to activate before XP stopped working. I confess that for a moment I considered just leaving XP on the box and activating it, but I really don't want to be drawn into the XP mousetrap. So today I'll strip the disk down to bare metal and install Windows 2000, Office 2000, and my other standard applications on it.

I should then have a main system that will serve my needs for the next year or more. Of course, in the interim I'll be learning Linux, so this may well be my last main system that runs any flavor of Windows.

I don't usually run press releases, but I got an interesting one from Olympus yesterday. Barbara wants me to buy her a digital camera of her own, and this looks like a good candidate.


World-Class Olympus Lens, Stylish Design, & 2 Megapixel CCD D-520 ZOOM Provides Effortless, High Quality Photography

Melville, NY, March 18, 2002 — Olympus America Inc. today announced the D-520 ZOOM, an easy-to-use pocket-sized zoom digital camera. Building on the success of the D-510 ZOOM, one of the best sellers in its class, the D-520 ZOOM is approximately 30% smaller with a sleek metallic silver gray body; 3x optical zoom combining with a 2.5x digital zoom for a total seamless 7.5x zoom; CCD resolution of 2 Megapixels; QuickTime™ Movie Mode; and USB Auto-Connect for easy connectivity to most USB equipped computers.

The D-520 ZOOM delivers vibrant high quality images through the Olympus all-glass f2.8 – f4.9 3X Optical Zoom Lens. Extremely versatile and easy to use, the D-520 ZOOM not only offers a choice of four image resolution levels, an assortment of cool image edit effect modes, such as black & white, sepia and file resize; but also includes the ability to record full motion video and view images and movies on a TV. The D-520 ZOOM’s movie mode records up to 60 seconds of full motion video at 15 frames per second on the included 16MB SmartMedia card.

The D-520 ZOOM captures images with enough resolution to create photo-quality prints up to 8” x 10”. It also offers settings for different image qualities and file sizes for everything from printing, emailing or posting images on the web.

For fast and simple computer connectivity, the D-520 ZOOM features USB Auto-Connect technology. The Olympus USB Auto-Connect feature allows users to plug the camera directly into most USB-configured computer. No hardware drivers or additional software are required to fully support connectivity with PCs running the latest operating systems including Windows® XP, 2000, Me and 98 and Mac OS™ 8.6 – 9.2x and Mac OS™X (10.0.1). These computers will mount and recognize the D-520 ZOOM automatically. The camera will appear as a removable drive in the “My Computer” window on a Windows PC, and as a “Untitled” disk drive on the desktop of Macintosh systems. This eliminates the need to search for software or restart the system, so image viewing, downloading and printing can be performed immediately upon connection (card readers are also available for non-USB equipped PCs).

Printing the images from the D-520 ZOOM is so easy. Simply insert the removable SmartMedia card directly into one of Olympus’ “P” Series dye sublimation printers for high quality prints up to 8” x 10”. The D-520 Zoom supports the Digital Print Order Format (DPOF) standard for tagging specific photographs for printing with DPOF- compatible printers.

The large 1.5” LCD display allows for enhanced playback and viewing options, including 4-, 9- or 16-frame Index Display Mode, Single Frame Display with 1.5X, 2.0X, 2.5X and 3.0X Zoom Inspection, plus sequential image scrolling. The LCD monitor also serves as the camera’s control panel, with an easy to use menu layout and arrow keypad to select various modes and settings.

The D-520 will be available April 2002. It comes with a 16MB SmartMedia card, USB cable, strap, 2 AA Alkaline batteries, Camedia Master 4.0 software for photo editing, correction and management, user manual and warranty card.

D-520 Zoom Street Price: $299
D-520 Zoom SRP: $349

For more information, contact Olympus America Inc, Consumer Products Group, Two Corporate Center Dr., Melville, NY 11747-3157, ph: (631) 844-5000 (800) 622-6372, Fax: (631) 844-5262 or the Olympus Web Site:

Tonight is the monthly meeting of the Forsyth Astronomical Society, so Barbara and I will do our usual library run, followed by dinner and the meeting.


Thursday, 21 March 2002

[Last Week] [ Monday ] [Tuesday] [Wednesday ] [Thursday] [Friday] [Saturday] [Sunday] [Next Week]
[Daynotes Journal Messageboard] [ Messageboard ]
9:11 - Amongst other things, I got the OS and drivers loaded on my new main system yesterday. That took longer than it should have. While Windows XP recognized all my hardware, Windows 2000 didn't. It didn't recognize the RADEON 7200 video card or, more importantly, the network adapter. There is a distinct order that things should be done when installing Windows 2000 from scratch. Here's what I did:
  1. Boot from Windows 2000 distribution disc.
  2. Blow away existing Windows XP partition and create new 80 GB partition.
  3. Format new partition as NTFS (which took a long time)
  4. Complete default Windows 2000 installation. Find there are no network drivers, but installation order is important.
  5. Burn a CD with D845WNL drivers, BIOS update, ATI RADEON drivers, etc. on current main system.
  6. Update D845WNL BIOS to current version.
  7. Install Windows 2000 SP1 (I thought I could skip SP1 and just use SP2 directly, but I couldn't remember for sure, so I installed SP1 first).
  8. Install Windows 2000 SP2
  9. Install Windows 2000 SRP1
  10. Install Intel Chipset drivers
  11. Install Microsoft DirectX 8.1 for Windows 2000.
  12. Install Intel Application Accelerator
  13. Install SoundMax audio drivers
  14. Install Intel LAN adapter drivers
  15. Find that the LAN adapter Setup.exe program installs the supplementary utilties, but NOT the LAN drivers themselves.
  16. Install Intel LAN adapter drivers manually
  17. Install ATI RADEON drivers and configure video mode
  18. Fix stupid folder defaults in Windows 2000
  19. Map network drives, install network printers, etc.
  20. Final Test -- Play a game of FreeCell.
The system is very fast, as you might expect. So is the video. I named the new system messier, in honor of the 18th-century French astronomer. I'll call it "Charles" for short. But now I don't have a single system in the house running Windows XP. I sure hope O'Reilly doesn't request any reshoots of the XP screens I did for the new edition.

While burning the CD, I noticed that I'm down to about six or eight blank Plextor 16X CDs. All I have other than those are a partial spindle of hideous Smart & Friendly 4X blanks (The Spindle That Will Not Die). So I used an S&F disc to burn the utilities CD, and ordered another spindle of 100 Taiyo Yuden 24X blanks from Hyper MicroSystems. It cost $41, including shipping. They have interesting pricing. A spindle of 100 was $35. A spindle of 200 was twice that, $70. A spindle of 300 was, you guessed it, $105. Hmmm. No price break at all. The price breaks come in on larger quantities. They were willing to sell me a spindle of 400 for $135, which amounts to a $4 price break, or a penny per blank. They charge $165 for 500, or $320 for 1,000.

I almost ordered 200, but I figured 100 24X blanks would do me until 40X blanks become more common and cheaper. What's really interesting is that they also sell generic DVD- R(G) discs for $2.20 each in quantity. It hasn't been all that long ago that a spindle of 100 CD blanks cost $220, so obviously DVD-R(G) blank prices are dropping fast. If you need blank media, Hyper MicroSystems is probably a good place to order it. I've never heard a word said against them, and they had very favorable ratings on the newly re-incarnated

Speaking of, the new site has a very interesting page. You can now display a list of all resellers from highest-rated to lowest-rated. I spent a few minutes comparing ratings on that site with my own experiences, and I'd have to say they correspond pretty well.

11:51 - Son of a bitch. FrontPage 2000 just screwed me royally. Not only did it lose the page I was working on, it irretrievably deleted every file in the directory I was working in. Those files are gone, gone, gone. I had been working on converting the portions cut from the second edition to web pages. All of the work I did on that is lost. Fortunately, I still have the original documents, so I can reconstruct everything, but FrontPage just cost me hours of work.

I didn't do anything to cause the problem, either. I'd been working on a web page that was ridiculous in size because when I pasted in the original Word document, FrontPage inserted all that Word formatting crap for tables. What should have been perhaps a 50KB document was nearly 2 MB, all because of that extra Microsoft formatting crap. So I was going through, cutting the tables from the HTML document, pasting them into Excel, cutting them from the Excel worksheet, and pasting them back into the HTML document. That was going fine, and that process stripped out all the crap. I'd been saving every few minutes as I worked, with no problem. Then I saved again. Nothing special, just a quick save so that I wouldn't lose what I was working on.

Instead of the the expected behavior--the tool bar style section graying out until the save was complete--an error message popped up. It said that it couldn't save the document because it was being used by another process. Huh? So I clicked OK, which was the only choice, and the on-screen document remained visible. Okay. Try again. Same error message. There was no way FrontPage would allow me to save.

Since I'd just saved about 5 minutes previously, I figured it was no big deal, so I exited FrontPage and then started it again. When I clicked on the recently-used files list entry for the document I'd been working on, it told me there was no such document in the web. I went to Folder view, and found that every file in the directory I'd been working in was gone.

So I checked the Recycle Bin, which was empty. I then did a search of both the local hard drive and the network drive where the web file are actually stored. Nothing. I rebooted the system, hoping against hope that the files would magically re-appear. No such luck. They are gone, gone, gone.

And so is FrontPage. I have had it with Frontpage. I love its site management and ease-of-use features, but I simply can't trust it any more. I'm going to re-do all the work I did, but I'm going to do it in Mozilla's Composer. It's a lot less convenient to use, but it has the unquestionable advantage of generating standards-compliant HTML. I'll have to keep using FrontPage during the conversion process, and Barbara may want to continue using it, but it's on its way out here.


Friday, 22 March 2002

[Last Week] [ Monday ] [Tuesday] [Wednesday ] [Thursday] [Friday] [Saturday] [Sunday] [Next Week]
[Daynotes Journal Messageboard] [ Messageboard ]
9:00 - Today is my last post with FrontPage. The next time you see a new journal entry from me--which may not be until next Monday--it will be done with a standards-compliant HTML editor, namely Mozilla Composer. Since FrontPage trashed the work I was doing on yesterday, I decided to rebuild that site from scratch using a decent HTML editor. Mozilla's Composer was what I chose. I had it handy, it generates W3C-compliant HTML, and it's easy enough to use. Not as convenient as FrontPage by any means, but I'll suffer a bit of inconvenience to have a product that won't trash several hours of work. And the upside is that Mozilla is cross-platform, so once I migrate to Linux I'll be able to continue using it until something better comes along.

Relative to FrontPage, Mozilla is missing a lot of things. Foremost, of course, is the site management capabilities, but I'm increasingly coming to realize that those aren't really that important to me. My sites are relatively static. I add pages, but seldom move things around. So FrontPage's ability to correct links on the fly as documents are relocated is of minor benefit to me. I'll miss some of the convenience features of FrontPage more, things like autothumbnailing. But I can thumbnail the images myself in IrfanView and create the thumbnail links myself, so that's of minor concern as well.

There are some minor aggravations with Mozilla Composer, things that should have been implemented or fixed but haven't been. For example, when I was inserting external links in a page, I tried to follow my standard practice, which is to bring up the page in question in my browser, highlight and copy the URL in the address line of the browser, and then paste it into the link field in the editor. With FrontPage, that's a simple matter of highlighting and doing right-click copy and paste. Mozilla Composer doesn't have a right-click menu, at least in the places I was using, so I had to put the cursor in the field and use Ctrl-V to paste the URL in. A minor problem, to be sure, but it does get aggravating when there are a bunch of links to do.

Also, I haven't quite figured out the Composer Publish function, but that's no big deal either. I can simply publish by using my FTP client to batch upload the stuff. For some people, Mozilla's lack of real-time spell checking will be a drawback, but I spell pretty well and don't worry about the occasional typo, so the lack of red squigglies won't bother me.

I got a template for the site done yesterday and finished converting a few pages. If you're interested, you can see one here. The site remains a mix of FrontPage pages and Mozilla Composer pages for now. You can tell which is which by looking at the bottom of the page. The Mozilla pages all have the W3C HTML compliance logo at the bottom, which my journal page will also be sporting no later than Monday.

I am also finding out that there are advantages to having several browsers installed. When I was mucking about yesterday trying to get text from FrontPage-generated pages to clean Mozilla Composer pages, one of the things I tried was calling up a page in the browser, doing a Select-All, and then copying and pasting the material into Mozilla Composer. Doing that with IE or Mozilla as the browser simply pasted all the garbage FrontPage HTML into the new Composer document. But with Opera, the situation is different. Opera doesn't have a Copy function per se. Instead, it has a Copy Text function, which does just what I want. It copies only the text of the original page. I can then paste that into Composer and reformat as needed. None of the FrontPage garbage is transferred to the new page when I use that method.

More on the problem with spontaneous reboots with my current main system. Greg Lincoln suggested I turn off the autoreboot option in Windows 2000 Startup options so that I could see which driver was causing the problem. I did that, and finally this morning I saw the results. When I came in, the system was sitting at a blue screen. The text told me that there'd been a page fault in unpaged memory and that the program affected was ntoskernel.exe. So I'll just delete that program and everything will be fine.


Saturday, 23 March 2002

[Last Week] [ Monday ] [Tuesday] [Wednesday ] [Thursday] [Friday] [Saturday] [Sunday] [Next Week]
[Daynotes Journal Messageboard] [ Messageboard ]
10:15 - I am now using Mozilla Composer to write this page. I also went back and recreated the page from scratch to get rid of all the obnoxious Microsoft non-standard HTML, so this page now passes the W3C HTML validity checker. Mozilla has some real drawbacks as an HTML editor. For one, unless I'm completed missing something, it has no way to search and replace in HTML mode. Or even just search, for that matter. I found myself saving the web page and then calling it up in Notepad to do the search and replace. That seems stupid. Mozilla Composer is very crude in comparison to FrontPage when it comes to routine editing tasks, let alone anything more complex. But it does do pretty much everything I need to do, and it does generate pure HTML without all the Microsoft gubbage, so I'm going to stick with it for now.

Barbara and I did our first formal Astronomical League observing last night. We did it from the backyard, because the temperature was to be in the lower thirties with wind chills in the twenties, and we were both just too tired to pack up the truck and drive up to Bullington. We did get quite a few objects logged. Tonight is to be another clear, cool night, and we may set up again in the backyard to do some more.

I've now gotten dozens of emails from readers about the new bill introduced by that whore Fritz Hollings, which he now calls the Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act (CBDTPA). Read about it here, and then DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT . With only changes in window-dressing, this is the same consumer-raping piece of nonsense formerly called the Security Systems Standards and Certification Act (SSSCA), and if this bill is made law we give up control of our computers and software to the music industry, the movie industry, and Microsoft.

I have never been a single-issue voter, but now I am. If any of my representatives support this bill, whether in its original form or any modified form, I will vote against him. I will do my best to convince everyone I know to vote against him. I will send money to his opponent. I will do everything I can to make sure any of my representatives who support this bill will be defeated in the next election and will never hold any office again. I will vote for his opponent, even if that opponent is an anti-gun tax-and-spend liberal whose every other position is diametrically opposed to my own beliefs, so long as he opposes laws created solely to benefit the music and movie industries.

The time has come to destroy these people. Although I obviously can't advocate illegal acts, if I were to pick up the paper one morning and find that Fritz Hollings, Jack Valenti, and Hilary Rosen had all been murdered, it would bring a smile to my face. These sons of bitches are trying to enslave all of us, and they deserve whatever bad things happen to them. At the very least, the politicians who support this and similar bills need to be hounded out of office. A formal congressional investigation needs to be launched, and charges under the RICO statutes brought against the politicians and music/movie industry leaders who are trying to steamroller these bills through. None of these politicians are representing the people who elected them. They're representing the corporations that have bought and paid for their votes.

The DMCA needs to be repealed, and copyright law modified to eliminate extended copyrights. We need to return to a 14 year copyright term, renewable for 14 years, effective retroactively. Anything copyrighted prior to 1974 should be declared to be in the public domain as of now. Corporations should be forbidden to hold copyrights, and any copyright held by a private person on behalf of a corporation should be voided. Fair Use provisions should be extended and strengthened. Publishers should be held civilly and criminally liable if they implement or attempt to implement any technology in hardware, software, or media that is designed to restrict or has the effect of restricting consumers from exercising their Fair Use rights. Any attempt to encrypt, copy-protect, copy-limit, or otherwise restrict consumers rights to use the products they have paid for should be met with criminal charges.

As I have said before, it is also time and past time to boycott these sons of bitches. Do not attend movies. Do not buy or rent video tapes, DVDs, or audio CDs (except those sold by the artists who produced the content). If you subscribe to premium television channels, drop your subscription. Read a book instead.

The big winner if this bill is made law is Microsoft, but I haven't seen much mention of that. A couple of years ago, I said publicly that Microsoft wouldn't be able to compete successfully against Open Source and so would have to make Linux illegal. People laughed at that then, but it's not so funny now. One effect of the DMCA/SSSCA/CBDTPA will be to cripple Open Source. Nor is that an accidental side-effect. It is one of the primary intentions of this bill. And it is yet another reason why this bill and the people backing it have to be stopped.

Write your representatives and tell them in no uncertain terms that you are unalterably opposed to the DMCA and CBDTPA in any form. Tell them that you want the DMCA repealed and the CBDTPA defeated, and that you'll be watching to see how they vote. Make it clear to them that if they do not strenuously oppose these reprehensible laws that you will do everything in your power to make sure that they are defeated at the next election.


Sunday, 24 March 2002

[Last Week] [ Monday ] [Tuesday] [Wednesday ] [Thursday] [Friday] [Saturday] [Sunday] [Next Week]
[Daynotes Journal Messageboard] [ Messageboard ]
9:11 -  Here's a shot of Malcolm in normal working mode. Whenever he's playing hallball, he always carries at least one toy in his mouth, in addition to the tennis ball that he retrieves and brings back to be thrown again. Here he has two toys in his mouth, and a rope balanced on his back. His all-time record was four toys held in his mouth simultaneously--a tennis ball, green caterpillar squeaky, a knotted sock, and a chew bone. When someone throws a tennis ball for him and there's no dog toy handy to carry in his mouth, he'll grab almost anything as a substitute. He frequently snatches one of my tennis shoes to satisfy the mouth-toy requirement. If one of those isn't handy, he'll snatch Barbara's hat, a towel, or whatever else happens to be handy.

When he gets too many toys in his mouth to be able to carry the tennis ball as well, he just runs down to the end of the hall and plays soccer with it, kicking it back towards us. Once the tennis ball gets close enough to us to satisfy him, he spits out one of his erstwhile mouth toys, picks up the tennis ball, and tosses it to us.

Barbara and I were planning to head up to Bullington tonight to do some observing, but the Clear Sky Clock says conditions will be mediocre. We might try it anyway, but Luna is going to be bright as well. Tracking down faint fuzzies is hard enough with either hazy conditions or a bright moon. With both, it'd be very difficult. So I guess we won't bother going tonight.


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