- I spent Friday afternoon and Saturday morning going over the galley proofs for the first third or so of the new edition of Building the Perfect PC.
It's in pretty good shape. I'm expecting the galley proofs for the
second third or so today or tomorrow, and the final third soon
thereafter. Once I have all of it, I'll post the whole thing on the subscribers' page, along with my own edits and comments.
As always, I'm also going to ask O'Reilly to provide some number of
review copies to any of my subscribers who are interested in receiving
a printed copy of the book and are willing to post a review of it.
Ordinarily, I'd send an email to my subscribers notifying them of that
offer. At the moment, though, I don't have a subscriber mailing list.
Somewhere in my transition from Mozilla Mail to Kmail, I lost track of
that list, so I'm going to have to recreate it from other records.
I'm currently planning projects for 2007, both work-related and
personal. One of them is something I've wanted to do for a long time. I
now have planning permission from Barbara to convert the kitchen in the
downstairs guest suite into a chemistry laboratory. I haven't had my
own laboratory since I was a teenager, and it's long overdue. (Every
boy should have his own chem lab; every girl, too.)
Nowadays, I can afford to buy stuff that I could only dream about as a
teenager, so this lab will be pretty well-equipped for a hobby lab. Of
course, I'll have to deal with issues that I didn't have to deal with
back then. Ridiculous as it seems, I think I'll probably have to get a
DEA license to buy some pretty ordinary chemicals, such as iodine. It
could be worse, though. It's a crime for Texas residents to possess an
Erlenmeyer flask without a license.
- Here's the order I just placed with Indigo Instruments.
It's a basic set of laboratory glassware, enough to get me started.
I'll order more glassware later, including graduated cylinders,
burettes, vacuum filtering flask, separatory funnel, and so on, as well
as a few larger beakers and flasks. I'm not interested in doing
microchemistry, which uses tiny quantities of reagents, often very
dilute. I want to work with quantities from a few milliliters to
perhaps 100 ml, which is small enough to be economical while large
enough to be fun.
I'm also putting together a list of laboratory hardware--ringstands and
clamps, burner, balance, etc.--that I'll order once I get things a bit
more organized. I also need to make provision for stuff like basic
spectroscopy, chromatography, and so on.
Election Day, and, for the first time since I turned 18 in 1971, I'm
considering not voting. The Democrats disgust me. The Republicans
disgust me. The Libertarians have no chance of winning.
What I'd like to have is the opportunity to vote straight-ticket for
"None of the Above", with the understanding that if None of the Above
wins, None of the Above serves. Or, more realistically, that if None of
the Above wins, the election must be held again, and continue being
held again until a candidate receives 50% + 1 vote of those eligible to
vote (not of those who actually did vote). Anything less is not
We actually have a one-party system. The Republicrats have been in
control of the federal government and most state governments at least
since the Goldwater election. There's little or no difference between a
typical Republican candidate and his Democrat opponent. Neither is a
conservative, nor a liberal, nor a libertarian. Both are actually
populists, which is to say that they believe government should
interfere with personal freedom across the board.
I define a conservative as someone who believes that government should
keep its hands off economic issues, but should be free to interfere in
personal issues. A conservative, for example, believes in a strong
currency and free markets, but believes government should control
private consensual sexual behavior, drug use, and abortion. A liberal
is just the opposite, believing in strong government control of
economic issues, but advocating a hands-off approach to personal
issues. A populist thinks the government should control both economic
and personal issues. A libertarian believes that the government should
keep its hands off both types of issue.
Over the years, surveys have repeatedly shown that the American
population divides as about 50% populist, 25% libertarian, 15%
conservative, and 10% liberal. Unfortunately, the candidates presented
by the two major political parties are nearly 100% populist, so we're
given no real choice at all.
There are a few exceptions, of course. Congressman Ron Paul in Texas is
100% libertarian, although he was elected as a Republican. A very few
conservatives, liberals, and libertarians hold elective office at the
national level. They are more common, although still a small minority,
at the local and state level.
I've often thought that Ron Paul has shown us the way to succeed, by
co-opting the parties that be, working within the current system rather
than trying to create a new system from the outside. The libertarian
message is attractive to many people, but few vote Libertarian because
they believe they'll be throwing away their votes. For example, Jerry
Pournelle, although well-known as a conservative, has told me more than
once that he'd vote Libertarian if he thought they had any chance of
being elected. It seems to me that we libertarians should be working to
co-opt the Republican party, leaving the Democrat party as a
refuge for populists and other scoundrels. What we need to
concentrate on is electing another Republican Ron Paul, and then
another and another and another. Eventually, voters would have a
real choice, and long before then libertarians would have a strong
voice in the Republican Party.
I just couldn't help myself. At about 11:20 a.m., I went out and voted.
I was number 281 on a rainy, blustery day, which surprised me. I
expected to be in the double digits. There weren't many real contests,
and no Libertarians running. I voted Republican, except for one
vote-for-three school-board race that had three Republicans, three
Democrats, and one Independent on the ballot. I voted for the first two
Republicans and the Independent. I have no idea what the Independent
stands for, but at least it wasn't a vote for either major party. I
also voted against a $250 million school bond and a smaller bond for
the community college.
Mercury transits Sol today, but, as usual for planetary transits, we're
going to be clouded and rained out. I may watch some of it on one of
the web sites that streams video from a large telescope. Still, it's
just not the same watching it on a screen.
Our local elections didn't yield any big surprises, nor any major
changes. The Democrat running for the at-large County Commissioner seat
won by about 300 votes in 70,000 cast, but the Republicans remain
in control of the Board of Commissioners. One of the Democrat
candidates for an at-large seat on the Board of Education won, taking
that body from 7-2 Republican to 6-3. Our incumbent Republican
congresscritter won easily, and the incumbent Republican Sheriff won by
a 2:1 margin. Large bond issues for the schools and community college
won by 2:1 margins.
Overall, local voters pretty much voted for more of the same, more
fool them. Of course, they didn't really have much choice. A vote for
any candidate of either major party is a vote for more of the same.
Nationally, the Democrats are no doubt heartened by their success in
taking control of the House. They shouldn't be. People didn't vote
for Democrats; they voted against Republicans. Any
Democrat who believes he was elected because the voters liked him or
approved of his policies is a fool. He was elected because voters
disliked him and his policies less than they disliked the Republican
and his policies. The system is seriously broken when voters are
routinely forced to choose a candidate they dislike because the only
alternative is voting for a candidate they dislike even more.
When I checked my mail this morning, I found a message from Jerry
Pournelle to his back-channel mailing list with an attached copy of the
draft of next week's column. In it, he relates a tale of woe about one
of his primary Windows systems trashing itself. I sent the following
I'm sorry your Windows system committed
suicide, but of course Windows systems are prone to doing that. As
you'll remember, not long ago my sole Windows XP system trashed an
external hard drive the same way, although fortunately it didn't trash
its C drive. That time, anyway.
I understand that you have to run Windows to generate column fodder,
but I do wonder why you continue to run Windows on critical systems
when you have the choice of using two rock-solid operating systems,
Linux and OS X. I can't speak to OS X, since I don't run it, but I'm
willing to bet that in terms of robustness and data safety it's a a lot
more like Linux than Windows.
And Linux is extremely robust. For example, I recently managed to shoot
myself in the foot by trashing the Kubuntu 6.06 Linux installation on
my main desktop system. I ended up replacing it with the most recent
version, Kubuntu 6.10. The difference between what I experienced and
what you experienced is instructive.
I stripped down the hard drive to bare metal and installed a fresh copy
of Kubuntu 6.10 to my main system. I then restored from my backups. I
lost zero user data *and* I lost zero configuration data. All of my
mail data and settings were stored in the .kde subdirectory of my home
directory. All of my Firefox configuration data, including passwords
and form data were stored in the .mozilla subdirectory of my home
directory. Getting from a fresh vanilla installation of Kubuntu 6.10 to
one with my own custom configurations was pretty much a matter of
copying directories from my backup set to the new system.
Even upgraded software versions were accommodated automatically. For
example, Kubuntu 6.10 includes Firefox 2.0 instead of the 1.X version I
had been running. When I copied my Mozilla data to the new system and
started Firefox 2.0, it told me that it had noticed that the Note Tab
Plus extension was installed, and that it was incompatible with and not
needed by Firefox 2.0, so it was ignoring it.
You already have desktop and notebook systems that could run Xandros or
Kubuntu Linux. I know you have an OS X notebook, and I believe you're
considering buying an OS X desktop system. So why continue to run
Windows, with all of its dangers?
You say your communications machine is devoted to running Outlook and
FrontPage. You can't run either of those on Linux, and I believe the
same is true of OS X. But that doesn't matter. There are good
alternatives for Linux, and I'm sure for OS X.
For example, I'm attaching a screenshot of Kontact, which I use for
email and PIM functions. You'll notice that it's similar in appearance
to Outlook, and has similar overall features. (In fact, it's
considerably more powerful and featureful than Outlook in most
I'm also attaching a screenshot of NVU, which I use to maintain my web
sites. As you can see, it's a GUI editor that appears similar to
FrontPage. I'll be the first to admit that NVU is missing some of the
nice features of FrontPage. For example, it doesn't do autothumbnails,
and it lacks the site management facilities of FrontPage. Still, it's
easy to use, generates clean, standards-compliant HTML, and has all of
the features you really need to maintain your pages.
Why not give Linux and/or OS X a try as your primary operating system?
I'm sure you'll hate either one for a while, because they're not what
you're used to. But I think you'll soon come to appreciate the
advantages of using a modern operating system instead of a legacy
I'm cranking away on constellation chapters for the new astronomy book.
I posted the first ten yesterday on the subscribers' page. I hope to
get three or four more chapters completed today and tomorrow.
Updates here are likely to be infrequent and sparse until I get the final draft of this book completed.
Bob: I'm not sure if Dvorak has had a stroke, or what. I'm sure Oracle, Tivo, phone companies, most of the FEA and computational fluid dynamics software houses in the world, and don't forget routers and other network gear, would be astounded if they were told you couldn't run proprietary software on linux. Slashdot has some commentary.
My favorite Mencken quote, in honor of the election:
"The government consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me. They have, taking one with another, no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office. Their principal device to that end is to search out groups who pant and pine for something they can't get and to promise to give it to them. Nine times out of ten that promise is worth nothing. The tenth time it is made good by looting A to satisfy B. In other words, government is a broker in pillage, and every election is sort of an advance auction sale of stolen goods." H. L. Mencken
Dvorak is a clueless troll. I used to read him sometimes for amusement, but I no longer bother.
I'd forgotten that Mencken quote. Thanks for reminding me. The more things change...
14:08 - O'Reilly just sent me the draft cover for the new edition of Building the Perfect PC, remade in the Make Magazine image. I think it's gorgeous. (Click on the image for a larger view.)
I pointed out that they'd left my first name off the spine, which will
be fixed. I was also concerned by the $49.95 retail price, which is $20
higher than the first edition. O'Reilly assured me that this was just a
placeholder. They haven't decided yet what the retail price will be.
As usual, O'Reilly has offered to send some number of review copies to
my subscribers who agree to review the book on Amazon.com and
elsewhere. (Elsewhere is fine, but Amazon.com is the one that really
counts.) I'm not sure how many copies O'Reilly has allocated for
review, nor obviously how many of my subscribers will request a copy,
so I can't guarantee that anyone who requests a copy will receive one.
In the past, O'Reilly has sometimes limited shipments of review copies
to the US and Canada, and perhaps the UK and Australia. I'm not sure
what they'll do this time, but it certainly can't hurt to ask for a
copy, even if you're located elsewhere.
More details about how to request a copy are on the subscriber page.
If you visit that page, you'll be prompted for a username and password.
Use the username/password I sent you when you subscribed (NOT your
username/password from one of the messageboards.)
- Hmmm. Bill Gates told attendees of the Microsoft Business Forum 2006 in Moscow that competitors were trying to "castrate" Vista. My immediate reaction
was that this would be a good thing. After all, if it were castrated, Vista
would become just another member of the family of UNIX.
Arrrrghhh. Arrrrghhh. Arrrrggggghhh.
Speaking of Vista, Allchin says Vista doesn't need antivirus software.
Yeah, right. As it always does when it releases a "new" operating
system, Microsoft claims that Vista is "the most secure Windows ever",
and bad-mouths earlier versions. Yeah, right. I remember Microsoft
making the same claim for XP SP2, XP, and Windows 2000, which was the
first time they noticed that this security thing might be important to
users. If Microsoft were honest, they'd instead say something like
"Vista is a tiny bit less insecure than earlier versions of Windows."
Exploits against Vista are already in the wild, and it hasn't even
10:32 - Veterans Day, a day for honoring living war veterans and remembering those who are no longer with us.
I remember as a young child in the late 1950's going downtown with my
parents to watch the parades. There were many WWI veterans then, most
of whom were only in their late fifties and early sixties. They all
seemed very old to a five year old child, of course. They were
grandpa's age. They all wore poppies, as did most of the crowd watching
the parade. We don't see that nowadays, more's the pity. And if there
were many in the WWI contingent, the WWII veterans outnumbered them
hugely. These were guys my dad's age, mostly middle thirties or
Back then, many of the adults remembered WWI, at least as
children. WWII was still a recent memory, no more distant for them
then than the Clinton-Bush election is for us now, and Korea even more
so. Many of the men in the parades had served in both WWII and Korea,
and some had even served in all three wars. They wore their uniforms
proudly, and all of us watching were very proud of them.
Nearly all of the WWI veterans are gone now. I read in the paper this
morning that only about two dozen US WWI veterans were still living as
2006 dawned. Now, eleven months later, only a dozen or so remain. Most
of our WWII and Korean War veterans are gone now as well, and more than
a few of our Viet Nam veterans are no longer with us. That really
brings it home for me, because I think of the guys who served in Viet
Nam as being young men. Most of them weren't much older than me. A few
of the fathers or uncles of my friends served in Viet Nam, but it was
usually an older brother or cousin, guys who'd been in junior high
school when I was in elementary school.
And, of course, there have been wars since Viet Nam, up to and
including the current war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those who have
served and are serving there are young enough to be my children.
We all of us owe our thanks to each and every one of them, from the
108-year-old WWI veteran to the 19-year-olds currently serving in the
Middle East. These men (and nowadays, women) have risked everything to
protect us. They've put their lives on the line and suffered the
horrors of war so that we don't have to, and the very least we owe them
is our sincere thanks for their sacrifices.
Yesterday evening Barbara shouted from her office that her PC had died.
There she was, working happily, ordering stuff from Lands' End, when
suddenly her monitor went black and displayed a No Sync message.
When I went back to her office, I found that her PC had powered down. I
pressed the power button and the machine let out a siren noise.
Ruh-roh. Barbara guessed the problem immediately. I pulled the cover.
Sure enough, the CPU fan was hanging loose, with the broken rubber band
at the bottom of the case. Barbara had some long plastic-covered
twist-ties, so I used one of them to secure the CPU fan, replaced the
cover, and fired up the system.
It booted up normally, except that it stopped at the BIOS boot screen,
displaying a message to inform me that "the processor has experienced a
thermal event" and recommending that I deal with that problem before
continuing. Pressing F4 cleared the message and the system started up
So we now know that (a) a heavy rubber band will last about three weeks
when used to secure a CPU fan, and (b) Intel's thermal overload
protection works as designed.