Monday, 9 June 2003
11:04 - Barbara is back from her weekend bus tour with her parents. The dogs are happy and I'm happy. She arrived home last night about 9:45 in the midst of a horrendous thunderstorm. It was bad enough that a half hour or so before she arrived home I was considering heading for the basement. There was a tornado warning about 9:00 p.m. but it was for an area to our east.
Duncan was terrified. He ended up hiding under my legs between the Ottoman and the sofa. Malcolm doesn't seem to be affected at all. He just wanted to play ball the whole time the thunder was booming and the lightning flashing. Kerry would have been terrified, but at age 15 he's almost deaf and becoming blind. I don't think he even knew there was a storm. It's interesting how the dogs' attitudes about thunderstorms change as they age. Neither Duncan nor Kerry was afraid of thunderstorms when they were young. As they reach six or seven years old, they suddenly decide that thunderstorms are to be feared. I expect that in a few years Malcolm will decide that he, too, is afraid of thunderstorms. The other odd thing is that they appear to be happier outdoors during a thunderstorm. When they're indoors, they tremble, try to force their ways into my lap for consolation, and so on. If I take them outside, they sniff around and mark as though there's nothing unusual going on.
This opt-out stuff is really starting to annoy me. I noticed the following message on Pournelle's mail page over the weekend:
So I called the toll-free number and opted myself out. Before I opt-out Barbara and my mother, I'll have to ask them if they want opted out, although what are the chances they don't? So this time we at least found out in time to opt out, but at the expense of some time and aggravation. Why are these opt-out slime permitted to put the onus on us?
The whole opt-out concept is flawed. The basis of opt-out is that these slime want to do something to us that they know we don't want them to do. If they have to get our permission ahead of time, they know they won't get it. So they screw us on the assumption that we'd agree to being screwed, even though they clearly know that's not the case. The only proper mechanism for permission-based marketing is opt-in, and opt-in on an individual and time-limited basis. The assumption should always be in favor of us, that we don't want to be bothered, rather than in favor of the marketers and other slime who want to bother us. There should never be an excuse for bothering us or giving out our private information without getting our permission ahead of time. And if we opt-in for one company, that opt-in permission should apply only to that company and should require a signed document be on file acknowledging that permission. Nor should a "pre-existing business relationship" be any excuse. Just because I buy something from Amazon.com or L. L. Bean doesn't mean I ever want to hear from them again, let alone from their "partners".
This whole opt-out thing is the moral equivalent of rape. When I was in college, a lot of guys tried to get women drunk on the theory that that'd make them easier to get into bed. Using the opt-out theory, these guys could have gotten a women so drunk she passed out, had sex with her, and later claimed that they had permission because she hadn't opted-out. That wouldn't have worked, of course. They'd have been charged with rape, as they should have been. So why do all of us have to put up with being raped by opt-out marketers?
(Note to women who are outraged by my equating telemarketing calls with forcible rape. I obviously don't equate the two in terms of severity. A rape is a hideous event for any women who has gone through it. On the other hand, telemarketing weasels call all day every day.)
Yes, it sometimes happens to me, too. This weekend, I got Barbara's data migrated over from Outlook 2000 to Mozilla, on her old system. I then sat down to build her new system. When I fired up the new system, nothing happened. And I mean nothing. No power supply fan, no lights, no nothing. I build a lot of systems, and have others constantly open and having components moved in and out. Maybe 95% to 98% of the time, everything works as expected. But one time in twenty or fifty, I build a system and it's simply dead.
When that happens, it's nearly always something simple. Usually, I just forgot to connect a cable. (Once, I had a dead system and started removing expansion cards and cables from the motherboard. I'd actually gotten the motherboard screws out and was prepared to pull the "dead" motherboard when I realized that during the teardown I hadn't removed the main power connector, and yet it wasn't connected. Duh.) Very strange. I know the motherboard, processor, and memory are fine, because I had them working before. I'd about concluded that the power supply might be bad, but now I'm not at all sure that's the problem.
Pournelle called Saturday night to talk about some stuff he was working on for his column. As it happened, Jerry was building an almost identical system for this month's Chaos Manor column, using an Intel D865GBF motherboard and an Antec Sonata case. I told him that the system I'd built was not working, and he asked if I'd used the special stand-offs in the "B" and "R" positions. Eh? I had no idea what he was talking about, and said so. Jerry said the instructions Intel provided made a point of using a particular special type of stand-off and special screw in two of the 11 mounting positions. Jerry asked if I'd missed that part of the instructions, to which I made the expected reply: "Instructions? We don't need no steenking instructions!" (Actually, what I said more resembled the line from the book The Treasure of the Sierra Madre rather than the Bowdlerized line from the movie of the same name...).
Jerry had had the motherboard in the case before he noticed those instructions, and he'd removed it and re-installed it using the special stand-offs. His system works and mine doesn't, which is a pretty strong argument in favor of using the stand-offs. Neither one of us can figure out what's so special about them, but since Intel made a point of mentioning them, I guess I'll go back and put them in. What a pain in the butt. There are so many cables and wires in that system that it took me quite a while to get them all connected properly. For example, there are two front USB ports on the motherboard, each of which has eight signals. The Antec Sonata case provides eight separate wires to make those connections. There are also connections for front-panel audio and numerous other things. But the inarguable fact is that the system doesn't work, so I guess I'll tear it down and do it right.
At least I won't have to mess with the CPU and Dynatron heatsink/fan unit, which took quite a while to install. That wasn't Dynatron's fault. The motherboard comes with an HSF retaining bracket already installed, but it's designed to accept the standard Intel HSF. I didn't have one of those, but I did have a Dynatron DC1207BM-X that's rated for the Pentium 4/2.8G processor. Unfortunately, the Dynatron HSF doesn't fit the supplied bracket, so I had to remove that bracket. It's mounted with those little white plastic posts that when pressed down expand a gripper on the bottom side of the motherboard. In theory, it's possible simply to lift the posts and free up the grippers so that the bracket can be removed. In practice, that turned out not to be the case. Those posts were wedged. I ended up having to use dykes to nibble the black plastic gripper parts off before I could lift the posts to free up the bracket. Once I did that, the Dynatron HSF installed quickly and easily.
So now I get to tear the system down and start again from scratch. Serves me right, I suppose, for not doing what I tell other people to do. RTFI.
14:27 - This story, if true, is outrageous. A 19-year old college freshman created a search engine that allowed other students at his college to search the college network. Not a peer-to-peer file-sharing network, you understand, but a simple search engine. The RIAA took exception to that, threatened legal action, and ended up taking the kid's life savings. Giving the RIAA the $12,000 was apparently cheaper than the alternative.
The RIAA is a rabid dog. What does one do with a rabid dog? Perhaps it's time to apply the same solution to the RIAA. Or at least boycott the sons of bitches entirely. Alas, I can't even convince my wife to stop buying CDs from these people.
Tuesday, 10 June 2003
11:09 - Thanks to the many readers who have pointed out that the message I reposted yesterday from Jerry Pournelle's web site is an urban legend, at least in part. I didn't bother to check the story itself, which I should have done. What I did check was the toll-free number, which turns out to be a valid opt-out service. Using it allows you in one step to opt-out of having the four main credit reporting agencies provide your information to banks and insurance companies for the purpose of soliciting business from you. Having verified the validity of that toll-free opt-out service, I should have gone on to verify the details of the story itself. My apologies, but if you've used that number to opt out, as I have, there's no harm done.
I got Barbara's email migrated over from Outlook 2000 to Mozilla Mail. Yesterday afternoon, I sat down with her to help her get started with re-creating her folder structure, building filters, and so on. She's not as happy with Mozilla Mail as she was with Outlook 2000. That's not surprising. With regard to features, Mozilla Mail isn't as good a mail client as Outlook overall, although there are features that Mozilla Mail has that aren't duplicated in Outlook. Also, Mozilla Mail isn't a virus magnet.
When I first started using Mozilla Mail a year or so ago, I didn't like it nearly as well as Outlook 2000, but I've grown to prefer it. The missing features turn out not to be as important to me as I thought, and some of the additional features are quite useful, such as the ability to handle multiple accounts with the correct sig file appended automatically.
One feature I never thought about is spell-checking. I don't use it. Barbara, on the other hand, considers herself to be a poor speller, and had Outlook set to spellcheck all outgoing mail automatically. After she'd been using Mozilla Mail for a few minutes, she asked me, "Where's the spellchecker?" Ooops. I knew there was a spellchecker for Mozilla, but didn't know any of the details. I downloaded it and installed it on Barbara's system. After I did that, a "Spell" icon appeared in Mozilla Mail. Clicking it brings up a spellchecker that looks quite similar to that provided by Outlook. Barbara tells me that its dictionary is deficient, but I'm sure she'll get it trained eventually. The one thing I thought was missing was the ability to spellcheck outbound messages automatically. A few minutes after I'd left Barbara to play with Mozilla Mail by herself, she shouted that she'd found a way to enable automatic spellchecking. So I guess she'll be able to use Mozilla Mail after all.
I also set Mozilla to be Barbara's default browser. She actually prefers Opera, but I told her to give Mozilla Browser a chance. I've actually come to prefer it to either Internet Explorer or Opera. It's feature-light compared to either of those overall, but once again it has some unique features that I find helpful. I find myself using it for about 99% of my browsing. I fire up IE only when absolutely necessary, and it's probably been several months since the last time I used Opera.
I want to get Barbara used to using Mozilla because it's OSS, it's more than good enough, and it's cross-platform. When I migrate Barbara's main desktop system to Linux, eventually, I want her to be able to continue using her primary applications without change. Mozilla is a good choice for that. If Evolution was available for Windows, I'd have migrated her mail to it for similar reasons. We make progress slowly, but we do make progress.
Spam check: The last four days, I've received 1008 overnight emails, of which 291 were spam, or 28.9%. Of those 291 spams, SpamAssassin caught 100.0%.
Wednesday, 11 June 2003
8:07 - This is starting to annoy me. I tore Barbara's would-be new system down yesterday, removing the motherboard so that I could replace the standard brass stand-offs in positions "B" and "R" with the special stand-offs that Intel supplied. I re-assembled the system, applied power, and absolutely nothing happened. Nothing. Okay, at that point, I decided it must be the power supply, so I disconnected all the power supply cables from the Antec TruePower 380, planning to replace it with a new PC Power & Cooling Silencer 400 ATX I had on the shelf. This picture gives some idea of the rats' nest of cables I'm dealing with, and I didn't shoot this picture until I'd neatened things up as much as possible.
When I pulled the box with the Silencer 400, I found it also contained a PC Power & Cooling ATX Power Tester, which I'd forgotten I had. The Antec power supply was already sitting there disconnected and ready to be tested, so I connected the power tester and applied power to the Antec power supply. This time, its main fan spun up, but the PS tester LED indicator didn't light, which indicates the PS is defective.
So, convinced I'd solved the problem, I connected up the Silencer 400 and applied power. Nothing. Nada. Not so much as a glimmer of LED or tremble of the main fan. Nothing. Now, both Antec and PC Power & Cooling have pretty good quality control. Getting one DOA power supply would surprise me. Getting two in a row stretches the bounds of possibility. Obviously, there's something wrong with the motherboard or possibly the processor. Neither of those is something I'd expect, but I've about run out of explanations. Unless it's a grounding-point issue. Hmmm.
This can't be right. BBspot.com is running a Which OS Are You? quiz. I took it, answering each question as honestly as I could, and here are my results:
Just for the record, here are my answers:
Incredible but true. The European Union thinks it can tax US businesses and individuals. As of 1 July, I am required by the EU to collect VAT on payments to me from subscribers. Yeah, right. Like that's going to happen.
I'm actually kind of hoping that one or more of my French readers (assuming I have any) will decide to subscribe sometime after 1 July so that I can make a point of not collecting VAT on that subscription. I hope France then comes after me. I'll fight, and France of course will surrender. I may invade France just for the hell of it.
11:14 - Several people have commented on this test and my answers, so here are the answers I gave, with the answers I would have given had I been free to do so in parentheses:
11:29 - One of my readers emailed me recently to ask about my recommendation of ATI video adapters. Not that he had any problem with that. He likes ATI as much as I do. But specifically he was asking whether "Powered by ATI" adapters were as good a choice as "Built by ATI" adapters. More specifically, he wanted to know whether I recommended Crucial ATI video adapters, and if not why not.
That's a good question. The answer is that I do recommend Crucial ATI video adapters, if Crucial offers a model that is appropriate for your needs. Right now, for example, Crucial offers only three ATI models, the RADEON 9800 Pro for $400, the RADEON 9100 for $83, and the RADEON 7500 for $56 (recently increased from $51). That leaves a pretty big gap in the middle range from $100 to $400, but the truth is that one of those adapters will be right for most people. The DX-7 RADEON 7500 is perfect for people who want an inexpensive adapter with excellent 2D image quality and reasonable 3D performance for casual gaming. The DX-8.1 RADEON 9100 is an excellent card for people who are serious 3D gamers but can't afford a high-end card. The DX-9 RADEON 9800 Pro is still the best bet for avid 3D gamers who can afford a $400 video card.
When I recently went out in search of an inexpensive RADEON video adapter for a new system I was building, I found a lot of Powered-by-ATI RADEON 7000 boards in the $35 range. That might have been good enough, but I really wanted to step up to the RADEON 7500. At $51, the Crucial RADEON 7500 was less expensive than competing Powered-by-ATI RADEON 7500 models of similar configuration, and much less expensive than the Built-by-ATI model. (That gap has since closed.) I trust Crucial's build quality, and of course Crucial offers a lifetime warranty on their RADEON adapters. So the Crucial RADEON 7500 it was.
I can't recommend other Powered-by-ATI RADEON adapters, such as those from Sapphire. They may well be good cards, but I haven't used them, so I can't recommend them. But if you're building a system and need a good video adapter, I can certainly recommend the Crucial ATI RADEON models. As a matter of fact, I have one of their RADEON 9100 cards on my desk right now. It'll be going into yet another system that I'll build when I get a spare moment.
Spam check: The last two days, I've received 600 overnight emails, of which 183 were spam, or 30.5%. Of those 183 spams, SpamAssassin caught 177, or 96.7%.
15:29 - Hmmm. Barbara is still getting used to Mozilla Mail. She just asked me how to do something in Mozilla Mail that she'd been doing regularly in Outlook. She said she wasn't able to make Mozilla Mail do it, and when I found out what "it" was, I wasn't surprised that Mozilla wouldn't do it, although I was surpised that Outlook would do it. "It" is changing the subject line of a message. Not changing the subject line in a reply, you understand, but in the original message.
I had Barbara fire up Outlook 2000 to show me what she meant. Sure enough, she highlighted the subject line in a message, typed in a new subject, and Outlook saved the original message with the new subject. Barbara uses this method to organize her mail. When I told her I was surprised that Outlook would allow modifying the original message like that, she said she was surprised that Mozilla didn't allow it.
I looked around Mozilla Mail for a while, but short of editing the raw message data with a text editor I couldn't find any way to change the subject line. I finally gave her the only work-around I could come up with short of forwarding the message to herself, which was to use "Edit as New", change the subject line, save the message to her Drafts folder, and then move it to the folder she wanted to store it in. As I left, I said, "Well, it works, but it's not very convenient." Barbara commented, "Mozilla Mail isn't very convenient." I think it's going to be a while before she decides that she likes it.
9:12 - Friday the 13th, and the day SCO has set as a deadline for IBM to comply with SCO's demands. This ill-considered action by SCO has always put me in mind of a Chihuahua savagely attacking the ankle of an elephant. Once the elephant finally notices, the Chihuahua is likely to find itself suddenly flatter than it would like.
It's a shame to see what SCO has become. I remember them fondly from the middle 1980's, when their Xenix distribution was the first Unix-like operating system I had used. And now they've become nothing but a rabid Chihuahua. Along with many others, I hope that IBM flattens it quickly. SCO needs to be put down.
If you've been following the pseudo-875P story, you know that several motherboard makers have announced motherboards that use the 865PE chipset but claim 875P-level performance. The Inquirer ran an article yesterday that basically supported the claims of these motherboard makers that their overclocked 865PE boards were just as good as a real 875P. I sent Inquirer editor Mike Magee this response, which he published, and which set off the following exchanges of email between me, Mike, and George Alfs of Intel.
>> IF YOU CAN MAKE a Springdale 865 motherboard miraculously transform into a board that's got the "turbo" power of a Canterwood 875 motherboard with a simple BIOS upgrade, then there's something wrong in the Pentium 4 paradise. <<
Well, that's just the problem, isn't it? You can't miraculously transform an 865 into an 875P. You can run the 865 with faster memory timings, certainly, but that doesn't automatically make it an 875P.
Intel has never made a secret of the two differences between the 875P and the 865:
1. The 875P has the additional pins necessary to support ECC memory.
2. The 875P is speed-binned silicon that Intel certifies will operate reliably at the faster memory timings.
So, if you choose to operate an 865 at the faster memory timings, one of three things will be true. From best to worst:
1. That particular 865 chipset was tested by Intel and found to be capable of operating at the faster memory timings, but Intel had sufficient 875P chipsets to meet demand already, so they labeled it an 865.
2. Intel never tested that particular 865 chipset, so it may or may not be capable of running reliably at the faster memory timings. What percentage of 865 chipsets are tested, and of those what percentage are capable of running at 875P timings? Only Intel knows, and they're not saying. Given that Intel is very, very good at producing chipsets, the percentage of 865 chipsets capable of running reliably at the faster memory timings may be nearly 100%, but then again it may be much lower.
3. Intel tested that particular 865 chipset, and found that it was not capable of operating reliably at the faster memory timings.
So, how much risk are you willing to take with your data? Using the 865 with 875P memory timings amounts to overclocking the chipset, with the risks that are always present when one overclocks. You may get away with it. I'm sure Intel builds a lot of slack into their chipsets. It wouldn't surprise me if most or all 865 chipsets were capable of using the faster memory timings most of the time. But "most of time" isn't quite the same as "all of the time", is it?
There's certainly no guarantee if one overclocks the 865, and memory problems can be quite subtle. It's possible to corrupt data without realizing one has done so until much too late. No one who understands the issue would argue that an overclocked 865 chipset is as reliable as an 875P, unless that 865 just happened to be one that passed Intel's tests but was labeled as an 865 anyway. But how would one know that?
Unless they are exhaustively testing each 865 chipset to guarantee that it can operate reliably at the faster timings, I think motherboard makers who offer this BIOS option are doing their users a disservice. And I think you are doing your readers a disservice by leading them to believe that overclocking the 865 chipset to 875P levels is risk-free.
Might it have something to do with the bloodbath in motherboard sales? One guy got the bright (read "dumb") idea that offering this option would give his company a competitive advantage. The others had to jump on board, even if they realized what a dumb idea it was, in order to remain competitive.
What we have here is the Prisoners' Dilemma. See, for example, <http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/PRISDIL.html>. In other words, the first guy who got the bright idea to offer a BIOS upgrade was "defecting" and the others, as rational actors, had no choice but to do the same. Of course, these actors have information that the actors in a pure Prisoners' Dilemma don't have, but the principle remains.
I think all these motherboard makers have ultimately screwed themselves. They've opened themselves to greatly increased support costs and to potential lawsuits by using the 865 chipset in a way that Intel specifically says is not supported. That's a dumb move, and I think they'll regret it.
The most significant comment in this entire exchange was Mr. Alfs' comment,
Note that comment well if you're considering buying one of these overclocked 865PE boards. Some may suspect that Intel's comments are self-serving, but I believe them to be the complete and literal truth. Frankly, when Intel announced PAT, I was surprised. I have enough respect for Intel's engineers to believe that they can implement PAT safely and reliably, but it's really pushing the envelope. For motherboard manufacturers to attempt the same performance level with untested 865 chipsets is simply asking for trouble. Steer well clear of such motherboards.
11:17 - Tom Syroid is going on hiatus. The press of other work meant something had to give, and his journal page was lower priority than his other work. Although Tom says he may return to updating his journal in the not too distant future, his final message reads more like a Goodbye than an Auf Wiedersehen. Tom says he'll leave his old journal pages up for a week or so and then remove them. There's a lot of useful stuff on Tom's pages, so Brian Bilbrey decided to mirror Tom's journal pages at Syroid_Insights.orbdesigns.com.
The more I read about the situation in Israel, the more disgusted I am with the failure of the US to support a long-time ally. How would the US respond if Israel attempted to broker some sort of Peace Roadmap between the US and Al Queda? The implication here is that both parties need to give so that a compromise can be hammered out. Would the US compromise with Al Queda? Of course not. And there's no reason to expect Israel to compromise with the Islamic terrorists that are murdering Israelis almost every day.
The US should be helping Israel to eradicate Hamas, or at the very least not putting up barriers to them doing so. I don't know much about the problem, but it's clear even to me that Islamic terrorists will never allow Israel to exist in peace. The only answer I can see is for Israel to expel all Islamics from its territory, including the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and close its borders to Islamics. It is completely within Israel's power to do so, given diplomatic support from the US. The US should support and encourage such a step by Israel, as the only effective way to ensure peace. The US could and should use its Security Council veto to prevent the UN from interfering.
If I were Israel, I'd expel the Islamics into Syria. Syria is one of the more obnoxious countries in the region, and a large influx of Islamics from Israel would have the beneficial aspect of destabilizing the government of Syria. Also, unlike many other countries in the region, Syria has few natural resources worth worrying about.
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