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Week of 10 March 2003

Latest Update : Sunday, 16 March 2003 15:14 -0500

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Monday, 10 March 2003

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11:08 - Thanks to Roland Dobbins for alerting me to this. If you don't already have these ports blocked, it'd be good to do so now. My own border router is a Linux box that is configured to deny all ports by default and to allow only the necessary ports. I'd suggest you do the same.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Please post immediately
Date: Mon, 10 Mar 2003 07:34:26 -0800
From: Roland Dobbins
To: jerryp@jerrypournelle.com, thompson@ttgnet.com

Everyone should be blocking TCP ports 445, 5800, and 5900 inbound at their borders:


I think it's time for a network reconfiguration. I have an NT4 Server box, theodore, that basically does nothing but share files. It's a reasonably competent box for the purpose. I just checked, and it has an Intel RC440BX motherboard, Pentium III/450, 128 MB of RAM (I could have sworn there was 256 MB in that box), embedded nVIDIA video, a Plextor UltraPlex SCSI CD-ROM drive, a Seagate SCSI Travan NS-20 tape drive, a couple of mirrored Seagate Barracuda ATA hard drives, and so on.

So, the question is, why am I running NT4 Server? I can't think of any good reason. Is there one? I think what I may do is strip that box down to bare metal, install Red Hat 8.0 Linux, and convert this box from an NT4 Server fileserver into a Red Hat 8.0 fileserver. I wouldn't even have to lose the PDC function of the box, because I could install Samba (which I'd have to do anyway) and configure it to provide PDC functions, if I even need those.

Hmmm. Better create a poll. What do you think? Vote in the poll over on the messageboard. Feel free to add comments as well.

11:51 - I've never much cared for VIA chipsets, but this guy really doesn't like VIA.

It looks to me as though war with Iraq is certain. France, as always, is determined to take an anti-US position, regardless of the issue. What France is doing is motivated by their dislike of the US and by their delusions of grandeur. France thinks of itself as a world power. The rest of the world, of course, recognizes France as a bombastic little third-rate nation. France is not a world power economically or militarily, and they simply hate that.

France is the self-appointed leader of the new Europe, or so they think. In reality, of course, the only reason France has any importance at all is that the US was nice enough to give them a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. France did not deserve that seat on any rational basis, and they resent the fact that they have it only because of the US. Now they are determined to use their veto to prove that France still matters, which of course it doesn't. In using that veto, they risk making the UN Security Council irrelevant, which of course eliminates the value of their permanent seat.

As I have been saying for many years, the US should withdraw from both NATO and the UN. It is not to our advantage to be a member of either organization, and the disadvantages to being so are more evident each month. Neither NATO nor the UN is a natural alliance for the US. The US has exactly one natural ally in Europe, and that is the UK. So, I propose the US do what it should have done long ago. Withdraw from NATO and the UN, along with other organizations like the World Court, which we had no business being a part of in the first place.

We should maintain our alliance with the UK, and should in fact offer them statehood, which is the next logical step. England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales would be excellent choices for states number 51, 52, 53, and 54. Geographically, demographically, and in terms of population, they would fit very well as US states. It seems to me that of the three choices the UK has--becoming part of the EU, becoming part of the US, or going it alone--it makes the most sense for them to join the US. The benefits to everyone involved would be significant. Of course, France would squeal like a stuck pig (and then surrender), but that's to be expected.



Tuesday, 11 March 2003

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10:05 - With regard to migrating my primary fileserver to Linux, the vote seems to be split two ways. Almost no one is in favor of sticking with NT, but about half the respondents are in favor of an immediate total migration to Linux on the existing hardware, while the other half counsel caution, suggesting I build a new Linux server and keep the NT4 Server box off-line until I'm certain I'm ready to commit to the switch. People whose opinions I respect have come down on both sides, so I may have to think about this for a while.

Apparently, I'm the only one that noticed the big news from Iraq last week. Saddam announced that there are no Iraqi civilians. That is, he announced that all of the Iraqi people would engage in armed resistance against any US invasion. Now, I'm no expert on international law, but I do seem to recall that irregular forces are as legitimate a target as regular forces. That means the US doesn't need to differentiate between military and civilian targets, because the entire population of Iraq is literally up in arms against our forces, and there are therefore no civilian targets. Everything and everyone in Iraq is a legitimate target, by Saddam's own words.

Also, am I the only one who is puzzled by all this discussion of rebuilding Iraq after the war? As far as I'm aware there is no obligation for the US, the UN, or anyone else to rebuild anything. I certainly don't want any of my tax dollars, or indeed any of the revenues from the oilfields that we reclaim in Iraq, to be spent on rebuilding anything. In fact, I don't want anyone's money going toward rebuilding Iraq. After the war, the US should blockade any attempts to provide any sort of relief, including food or humanitarian aid, to Iraq. Let them eat sand. Let them eat sand for the next century.

After the war, Iraq should be a wasteland, and should remain that way indefinitely. The only interest we should have in Iraq is pumping their oilfields dry and using what remains of Iraq as a staging area to invade and destroy other Muslim countries. Iran and Saudi Arabia would be good candidates for such treatment. Invade them, destroy their military capabilities, eradicate their infrastructure, and pump their oilfields dry.

Remember 9/11. It must never happen again, and the only way to prevent a recurrence is to utterly destroy the countries and people who would do it, given half a chance. So far, the US has done nothing to avenge 9/11, and that must change. Saudi Arabia must be destroyed. Iran must be destroyed. North Korea must be destroyed. Any country that would harm us must not be given the chance. They must be destroyed.

14:28 - As I've said before, when things get tough one finds out who one's real friends are. And there are often some surprises. The craven, weasely response of the French is no surprise, certainly, but that of the UK and, in particular, of Tony Blair is. I'm not surprised that the UK is supporting the US, of course. We've been supporting each other during hard times for a century or more. But I am surprised at the dedicated, unstinting support that the UK has been providing to the US.

I have to admit that before all of this happened I was not particularly impressed with Tony Blair. I assumed he was just one more in a line of soft-headed liberals. But Mr. Blair has proven himself to be a statesman of great stature. Margaret Thatcher could not have been more staunch in supporting the US under great difficulties at home. Mr. Blair is standing up for what he believes is right, despite the substantial political costs he is incurring by doing so. His own party is revolting, but Mr. Blair remains steadfast in doing the right thing. Doing the right thing despite the cost is not something we've come to expect from politicians. Mr. Blair has my admiration.

15:38 - I just sent the following message to subscribers:

If you have or are thinking of buying an nVIDIA nForce2-based motherboard, read this article:

Basically, you needn't worry unless you attempt to overclock. If you do overclock, it's possible that the motherboard will end up stuck at a high FSB rate at which it cannot POST. If you don't overclock, there is no problem.

I have recommended the ASUS A7N8X Deluxe motherboard, which is subject to the problem, so if you use that motherboard, take care. I see no reason to change my recommendation, because the nForce2 chipset is the best available for AMD processors, and the ASUS A7N8X Deluxe is an excellent implementation. Just don't overclock it. Overclocking is a sucker bet at the best of times, but particularly so with the nForce2.




Wednesday, 12 March 2003

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10:36 - I had an interesting conversation yesterday with one of my industry contacts, who is highly-placed in his company. I won't mention the company name, although it would be familiar to anyone who reads these pages. As usual, we got off the intended subject of the call and started talking about other stuff. Somehow, we got onto the subject of system reliability, and more particularly Intel versus everyone else. 

This guy's company builds thousands of systems. He says they'll never sell AMD-based systems, and the primary reason is reliability. According to him, it would cost them three times more to support AMD-based systems than Intel-based systems, and one of the primary reasons for that differential is chipset/motherboard reliability.

I told him that I'd told my readers that I regarded VIA-based systems as plagued with reliability and compatibility problems and much less desirable than Intel-based systems. He thought that wasn't a strong enough warning. According to him, VIA-based motherboards have very high failure rates across the board--from DOAs to early system failures--and are a nightmare to support because of various incompatibilities. He said they wouldn't even consider using a VIA-based motherboard.

I then brought up the nVIDIA nForce2 chipset and the ASUS A7N8X motherboard, which I think are pretty good products. He admitted they were far better than VIA-based products. Still, he said that their experiences with the nForce2 and ASUS A7N8X were not good. According to him, his company worries when their problem rate for Intel boards approaches 1%, while with the ASUS A7N8X they were experiencing 6% to 8% problem rates. 

Actually, what he said was, "six or eight per hundred" and he was speaking literally. When I test motherboards, I test single samples, or at most two or three samples of a given product. When he says they experienced problems with "six or eight per hundred" he means literally that they tested 100 motherboards and had problems with six or eight of them. According to him, Intel processors running on Intel motherboards are the gold standard for reliability. The consider anything else substantially less reliable and less compatible.

And, lest you think this guy is some kind of Intel bigot, he screamed to high heaven when Intel had a run of bad SE440BX boards, and again when the i820/MTH fiasco occurred. He's like me. He doesn't form religious attachments to companies or products, and he calls them as he sees them. Take his comments for what they're worth. I think they're worth quite a lot.

So, does that mean you'd be crazy to build an AMD-based system? Not necessarily. If you're comfortable working with hardware, resolving driver issues, and so on, you can get a lot of bang for the buck with an AMD system. Make sure you choose the right chipset, though. For dual-CPU systems, AMD is the only game in town. That's okay, because their SMP chipset is solid, albeit starting to show its age. For single CPU systems, I consider the nVIDIA nForce2 to be the best current choice, with the original nForce a reasonable choice for budget systems. I'd steer clear of anything based on VIA or other chipsets.

Actually, there are some very simple rules to follow if you want to build a stable system: (a) choose a good chipset, (b) choose a motherboard with high build quality, avoiding the cheap brands, (c) install top-notch memory, Crucial or Kingston, (d) use a top-notch power supply, and overbuy on wattage, (e) install a current video card, preferably ATI, with stable drivers, (f) pay attention to system cooling, (g) use a good UPS, and (h) don't even think about overclocking.

If you do all those, chances are good that your system will be extremely reliable and stable. Many of the crashes blamed on Windows are in fact subtle hardware problems. (That excludes Windows 9X, of course, which is a toy operating system.) My Intel-based Windows NT and Windows 2000 boxes run for weeks or months between reboots, and when I do reboot one it's almost always because I've added software that requires it. I literally cannot remember the last time Windows NT/2K crashed on an Intel-based system that wasn't caused by flaky power, overheating, or failing hardware. In my opinion, Windows NT/2K are just as stable as Linux in a desktop environment. I can't comment on their relative reliability in a server environment, because I don't have enough experience. But, whatever OS you're running, you can do yourself a big favor by making sure you're running it on stable, reliable hardware.



Thursday, 13 March 2003

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11:00 - Over on the messageboard, Sarah Heacock posted a link to this article. It's long and, although I certainly don't agree with everything the author says, it's definitely worth reading.

Tonight is the regular monthly meeting of the Winston-Salem Astronomical League, postponed from last Thursday night due to the ice storm and its aftermath. We have a lot to get done, including final planning for the Messier Marathon coming up the first of April. We're going to have dinner with Paul and Mary and then head back for the meeting. I have a lot to get done before then, including semi-finalizing some sort of observing sequence, so I'd better get to it.



Friday, 14 March 2003

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11:17 - Thanks to Roland Dobbins for sending me the following:

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Bibrog-B virus/worm/semi-trojan
Date: Fri, 14 Mar 2003 07:18:21 -0800
From: Roland Dobbins
To: jerryp@jerrypournelle.com, thompson@ttgnet.com

Please post ASAP - note that we're starting to see multi-vector/multi-function methods used . . .


Symantec doesn't have this one yet. Virus writers are getting sneakier.

It now appears that Iraq may strike first, or at least have such intentions. In case it's not blindingly obvious to anyone, I should mention that it's pretty clearly in the best interests of the US to move quickly. Our military planners no doubt want to take advantage of the new moon on 1 April to protect our land forces against Iraqi attack. Basically, our foot soldiers and armor have night-vision equipment, and the Iraqis don't. We can see in the dark, and they can't. So guess when it makes the most sense for our land forces to cross the start line? If we waste this opportunity, we'll have to wait another month, and that's a bad idea for several reasons.

It's getting warmer in Iraq, and the last thing we want is our soldiers wearing full MOPP gear during hot weather. Wearing MOPP gear In hot weather, a 20 year old infantryman in superb physical condition has stamina something like that of a 50 year old chairborne warrior like me. Imagine trying to fight a desert war in the sun in hot weather while enclosed in a plastic bag. We can't let that happen, which means if we're going to go we have to go now. Not a month from now, and not several months from now. Now.

So the Iraqis are moving troops and artillery within range of our troop concentrations in Kuwait. That's a pretty dumb move, in my opinion. The Iraqis can use them or lose them. If they use them, they have started the war, which makes it much harder for France and the other wimp countries to argue against the US invading Iraq. If they don't use them, they're just a big, fat sitting target, which US forces can plink prior to the balloon going up for real.

The Iraqis are also moving Scuds (you know, those Scuds that France claims they don't have) into positions that are within range of Israel. Obviously, Saddam intends to take pot shots at Israel with the intention of drawing a response that will force other Arab countries to join the conflict. In a way, I hope he does and they do. This isn't 1991, and Israel is in a much better position now to defend themselves against Scuds than they were in 1991. Even if Saddam shoots, though, I don't expect much to happen. The Israelis certainly may retaliate, but I don't think other Arab nations will be drawn in. They may be crazy, but they're not stupid. The prospect of a US/Israeli pinscher operation should be enough to give even crazy people pause. If that happens, none of the Arab nations will remain standing, and they must know that.

I expect to see those Scuds destroyed real soon now, either by US forces or, if we wait too long, by Israeli forces. A few Scuds may survive, and may be launched against Israel. If that happens, just as in 1991, I'd expect the US to bring strong pressure to bear on Israel to prevent them from retaliating. Whether they do or not will depend on how successful the Scud attacks are. If Israel can deflect the attacks with little or no loss of Israeli life, the US may be able to restrain them. If, on the other hand, Saddam succeeds in dumping a load of anthrax on Tel Aviv, I'd expect the Israelis to extract a terrible revenge regardless of what the US wants to see happen.

If Israel does become actively involved, I'd expect the Arab nations to roll over and play French. They'll be falling all over themselves to disclaim responsibility, knowledge, or complicity in Saddam's actions. If they don't, they're dead meat, and they know it. I'd expect the entire map of the Middle East to change as a result.

Just think about for a moment. There are three nations on the face of this earth that you really, really don't want to have mad at you. The US, the UK, and Israel. If all three are out to get you, you might just as well dig a hole and bury yourself. I suppose it must provide some consolation for Saddam and the Arab nations to know that France is on their side. If nothing else, France can provide expert advice about surrendering.

I need to build some systems in the near future. One of them will be a Linux server, because people have convinced me that it makes more sense to build a new box for that purpose than to blow away my current NT4 Server box. I also want to build a new primary desktop system for Barbara and one for myself. Instead of building entirely new boxes, I may upgrade some boxes in place, recycling some of the components. For example, Barbara is perfectly happy with her current case, a PC Power & Cooling mini-tower. Rather than putting a mid- or full-tower system in her office, I may just strip down her current system and replace anything that needs replacing.

Hmmm. I just looked at Barbara's system, and it would be a matter of jacking up the hood ornament and rolling a new car underneath it. She has an Intel D815EEAx motherboard, Pentium III/1.0G processor, PC133 SDRAM memory, and a lot of other obsolescent stuff. I think I may turn her system into my new Linux server and just build her a new one. Right now, I'm thinking I might use:

Intel D845GEBV2 motherboard
Intel Pentium 4/2.4G or /2.53G processor
Crucial PC2700 DDR SDRAM (512 MB)
Seagate 120 GB Barracuda ATA V hard drive (parallel ATA)
Plextor PlexCombo DVD/CD-RW drive

She's happy with her current monitor, keyboard, and mouse, so no changes there. She's also happy with Windows 2000, so I'll leave her with that. I'd like to migrate her to Mozilla, but she's used to Outlook 2000, and Mozilla doesn't support her PDA. She also uses Opera 6 as her default browser, and is happy with that, so I'll leave that unchanged.

For myself, I'm thinking:

Intel D845PEBT2 motherboard
Intel Pentium 4/2.8G processor
RADEON video card (of some sort)
Crucial PC2700 DDR SDRAM (512 MB to 1 GB)
Seagate 120 GB Barracuda SATA V hard drive
Plextor 48/24/48 CD-RW drive
Plextor PX-504A DVD+R/+RW DVD writer

I'll install Windows 2000 on the new box, along with my usual software suite. But that means the Windows 2000 Pentium 4 box I'm writing this on is now available. I'll probably move it to the den to replace my current Pentium III/750 box, which I'll just shut down for the time being. Once the P4 box is in the den, I'll probably upgrade it from Windows 2000 to Linux. I may wait for Red Hat 8.1 to do that, though.

12:00 - FoxNews has a fascinating set of poll results posted. Some of the results surprised me, but none any more than the response to the following question [emphasis added: RBT].

"If Iraq were to use weapons of mass destruction against U.S. troops or a neighboring country,  would you support or oppose the United States using weapons of mass destruction in response?"

Almost two-thirds supported, with less than a quarter opposed and about an eighth not sure. That is an extraordinarily high rate of support for using nukes in anger, so perhaps there's hope for the American public yet. Of course, if Iraq actually did use so-called weapons of mass destruction against the US, the rate of support would jump to nearly 100%. If Saddam uses chemical or biological weapons against our forces in the Gulf, let alone against a target or targets in the US itself, Americans will be demanding that we retaliate by nuking Baghdad into glowing rubble. Of course, we should have done that already, just to show the Islamics that we're not fooling around.

There were several other interesting poll questions, including one that established that only a minority of Americans are against using torture on captured Islamic terrorists. My own opinion is that there is nothing morally or ethically wrong with torturing Islamic terrorists. In fact, I'd be in favor of torturing them even if they knew nothing of value and we knew they knew nothing of value. Making life extremely unpleasant for Islamic terrorists is a worthy goal in itself. To the extent that we could extract valuable information, that would be a bonus. Of course, much of that information would be useless--people who are being tortured will say anything to make it stop--but some of it would certainly be worthwhile. If torturing a thousand Islamic terrorists can save the life of even one our own, it's well worthwhile.



Saturday, 15 March 2003

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10:21 - Here is what we are up against. 

"The British proposals on Iraq are not constructive and do not solve the main problem preventing the use of force against Baghdad."  -- Yuri Fedorov (Russian Deputy Foreign Minister)

I had completely misunderstood. I thought the point of all this diplomatic maneuvering was to force Saddam Hussein to comply with the resolution passed by the UN last November. And now it turns out that the point of all the diplomatic maneuvering is to prevent force from being used against Iraq. Silly me.

Well, Mr. Federov, here's some news for you. There is no power on earth that can prevent force from being used against Iraq. The US can do it alone, if necessary. Of course, that won't be necessary, because the US has the steadfast support of Britain, as well as that of many other nations that are wise enough to see what is staring all of us in the face. The prospect of rogue nations like Iraq and North Korea possessing weapons of mass destruction and the likelihood that those weapons will come into the hands of Islamic terrorists should be enough to terrify even someone as stupid as you are. 

Islam is your enemy, too, as it has demonstrated repeatedly. Russia, in its own interests, should be helping the US instead of playing geopolitical games. It has become clear that Russia, like France, does not deserve its position on the UN Security Council. You should do the world a favor and resign Russia's position.

You won't do that, of course, any more than France will. Both of you prize your Security Council seats and your small collection of nukes as evidence that you are important countries, which neither of you is. All of this simply reinforces a fact that should by now be obvious to anyone. The UN in general and the Security Council in particular has become irrelevant, if indeed it ever had any relevance. It is time and past time that the US withdraw from the UN. We're perfectly capable of creating a New World Order, and it's about time we get started doing that.




Sunday, 16 March 2003

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9:39 - Another alert from Roland Dobbins, this one potentially serious.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Samba exploit, fix
Date: Sat, 15 Mar 2003 18:05:24 -0800
From: Roland Dobbins
To: Jerry Pournelle, Robert Thompson, Tom Syroid, Brian Bilbrey, Greg Lincoln

Please post ASAP, thanks!


I saw an interesting segment on the news thing morning. They were interviewing French business owners, who are very worried that American boycotts of French products will harm their businesses. One French woman opined that it was so unfair for Americans to single out France, because Germany and Russia were just as strongly attempting to put the US in its place (well, she didn't put it that way, but that was the sense of it).

No one explained it to her, so I will. Perhaps someone will be good enough to tell her. Most Americans don't like the French. We never have and we never will. Conversely, most Americans do like the Germans and the Russians. Even at the height of the Cold War, most individual Americans and Soviets got along fine on a personal basis. The key difference is that Americans, Germans, and Russians are not weasels. The French are weasels, and no one likes a weasel. The Germans and the Russians happen to find themselves sharing a goal with the French, to bell the US cat, but that doesn't mean the Germans and the Russians like the French any more than Americans do. Which is to say not at all.

The commentator said that it was too early to tell if the informal boycotts of French products will gain momentum to become something that really threatens French financial interests. He may be right, but we can hope for the best. I can't think of anything France makes that we need. Ideally, we should forbid the import of any French products, much as we prohibit Cuban cigars. If for whatever reason that is not possible, we should boost tariffs on all French products to extremely high levels. France is neither our friend nor our ally, and never really has been. It's time for the US to recognize that fact and treat France accordingly. And the next time Germany invades France, which in historical terms is long overdue, I hope we let them keep it.

15:14 - Evolution in action. This woman's death is a good candidate for the Darwin Awards. She was only 23, so there's a good chance she hadn't had the chance to breed, for which we can all be thankful.



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