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Daynotes Journal

Week of 2 August 1999

Sunday, 08 August 1999 08:32

A (mostly) daily journal of the trials, tribulations, and random observations of Robert Bruce Thompson, a writer of computer books.




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Monday, 2 August 1999

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It's supposed to be somewhat cooler today and for the next week or so. Supposedly, we'll be back to normal highs for this time of year, "only" upper 80's or lower 90's. I got a message yesterday taking me to task for complaining about 100 degree temperatures. The sender apparently lives in the American Southwest and told me that they consider 100 degrees nothing special. Well, of course they do. They get 100 degree days with 5% humidity. But as anyone who has ever experienced it knows, 100 degrees at 5% RH is reasonably comfortable, so long as you drink plenty of fluids. But what we had was 100 degrees with 60%+ RH, a different matter entirely. 

I spent most of yesterday finishing up the new project system and installing software. The cover is still off, but it's starting to shape up. I installed a supplementary case fan, and the difference is like night and day. Without that fan, the passive heat sink on the Pentium III/450 quickly became too hot to touch comfortably. With the fan, the heat sink is not even perceptibly warm. I literally cannot tell the difference touching the heatsink whether the system has been off for several hours or has been running for several hours.

This system has a SCSI Tecmar Travan NS20 tape drive in it. This is one amazing tape drive. After I'd installed NT4 Server SP5 and Office 2000, I decided to test the tape drive. I installed the QIC-157 driver in NT, and NT recognized the drive immediately. I didn't have the BackupExec that was supposed to come with the drive, so I used the bundled NT Backup applet and told it to back up all of drive C:. As Barbara can testify, I sat there the whole time saying, "I can't believe how fast this drive is." How fast? Try 100 MB/min. This drive's a keeper.

* * * * *

This from Jan Swijsen [] regarding Shooting Apples:

Nowadays, I seldom shoot, but I guarantee that if I needed to I would hit what I was aiming at.

The question is what/who do you aim at?

Consider you are in a shopping mall when the shooting starts. Most people drop to the ground or run for 'cover' . There remain some people crawling around with guns. Who the heck do you aim at? This is even more a problem for the police. They arrive at a scene after the action started, they have no idea who started and when a police man shoots an innocent person he'll be on the headlines and maybe without a job after the trial. So having people carrying guns regularly isn't really the solution.

The 'criminal' has the easy part because every one is a good enough target.

For the police things could be easy(ier) as well. Take the strictest law: Nobody is allowed to carry guns. Result, any one with a gun is a criminal, any one with a gun is a target for the police. Simple.

Live is never simple of course.

(Did you notice that I am against guns?)

As far as using Apple, you are of course entitled to your opinion, but it is one that is shared by less than 5% of computer users.

There is nothing inherently wrong with Apple and not having a huge market share is not a problem either. Apple 'suffers' from the same symptoms that for example BMW (cars) has, they are more expensive than comparable competing cars and you can find faster, cheaper ones as well. Heck you can build your own. This doesn't mean Apple will/should go belly up as a hardware vendor. They push technology from the lab to the market. 

For example the iMac only has USB for peripheral connectivity, no serial and parallel stuff. Now PCs also allow user to have USB along with serial and parallel. User inertia prevents USB from becoming popular on PCs so peripheral venders are not likely to produce many USB-only products. For the Apple they have no option so USB gets introduced at a much increased pace. And then the PC community profits from an Apple decision. 

Ex Iomega Zip. If not for Apple they would probably remained USB-less for at least a year longer.

Apple has its place in the market and plays quite an important role in the industry.

(Surprise : I don't have an Apple and I don't advice to buy them. I just respect them.)

Side remark : Most users don't really care about the type of computer, they use what the company puts on their desks (and, after about a year, complain that is isn't fast enough and that the disk is to small and ...) . So your quoted percentages should not be about computer users but computer buyers.

Kind regards,

Regarding targets, the criminal is at a strong disadvantage. He is presented with a plethora of targets, and it's not immediately evident to him which, if any, of those targets are wolves (armed citizens) and which are sheep. The armed citizen, on the other hand, has no such problem. It's immediately evident to him which person is the target. The target is the one who is still standing and shooting at other people.

Regarding Apple and market share, all of these comparisons with automobile marques are facile. Consider the position of BMW if it could not accept Ford-compatible gasoline or use Toyota-compatible roads. Taking your BMW on a long trip would be fraught with problems, not least figuring out where to refuel it. (This, incidentally is really a problem faced by people who drive experimental cars fueled by natural gas and so on.) Apple has the same problem with software. And that's why a 3% market share means the death of Apple. We've seen it happening for years. Although software selection has always been pathetic on an Apple compared to a PC, there at least used to be unique programs that ran only on Apple. Then, software makers began porting those to Windows, albeit in a less functional form or as an older version. Then, software makers began introducing their new versions first on the PC and only later on Apple. Then, software makers began introducing their new versions only for the PC. Apple is dying. The only thing they can do to stop that slide, and they should have done it years ago, is to port the Apple OS to Intel and get out of the hardware business. 





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Tuesday, 3 August 1999

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Now here's something depressing. I've been helping Pournelle get his web site moved over to pair Networks. One of the things I'm doing is generating traffic statistics for him. My site generates between 500 and 1,000 page reads per day. The first two days I did stats for Pournelle, last Friday and Saturday, he got 7,000 total page reads, while I got about 1,400 for the same two days. Okay, I can live with him getting five times the traffic I do. He's a lot better known than I am, has a column in BYTE, etc. For Sunday, he got another 3,500 page reads, so things appeared to have settled down.

Then this morning I ran his stats for yesterday. He didn't quite make 10,000 page reads, but he came close. So, obviously, DNS changes were still not fully propagated the first three days, and his site is going to end up with 10 to 20 times the traffic my site generates. And that's why I'm depressed. I bust my butt on this site, and still have trouble breaking into four figures for page reads/day. Pournelle busts his butt also, it's true, but he's headed for five figures. I feel like a dwarf. Excuse me. A height-impaired person.

I suppose in the end it doesn't really matter. I've not set out to maximize traffic. I have a good, loyal group of readers, and that's what counts. I suppose I could break my daily posting in two and nearly double my page read count that way, but I'm not really interested in artificially inflating the numbers. But I'm still depressed.

* * * * *

This from Tom Syroid []: 

Recognize myself the often skewed results from any survey, but thought you might find this interesting apropos our chat yesterday...

Perhaps. But I think he's wrong. Very wrong.

I think widespread roll-out of W2K will not *begin* before 2001, let alone achieve the 40% penetration quoted. It's more likely to resemble the abortive Novell roll-out of NetWare 4.0. Every shop in the country bought one copy and installed it on a testbed server. That was it. I think the same will happen with W2K throughout 2000.

We could perhaps bet a 3-litre Coke on it...

* * * * *

This from Dave Farquhar []: 

To answer your question, Apple has one pre-emptive multitasking OS. OS X Server is pre-emptive and multi-threaded (since it's based on NeXTStep). But 8.5 and 8.6, which is what you still run on individual stations, are still the old cooperative multitasking, but it's application-based (the applications decide when to cede control to the OS, rather than letting the OS distribute the CPU cycles).

The memory management is different under 8.5/8.6 as well. You call up the program's icon and specify how much memory the program gets (you specify preferred and minimum amounts of memory). The program can't get any more than what you specify, which can cause some problems sometimes.

The biggest limitation I see in MacOS, though, is its 127-font limit. If you install more than 127 fonts, you can count on font and printer problems unless you use a font management tool like Suitcase. This can be a liability in publishing environments.

Dave Farquhar

Views expressed in this document are my own and, unless stated otherwise, in no way represent the opinion of my employer.

Wow. Hard to believe that anyone would take a co-operative multi-tasking operating system seriously in this day and age. Microsoft gave up on co-operative multi-tasking with Windows 3.1, and here we have a supposed technology leader using it four years later.

* * * * *

This from Joshua D. Boyd []

This is from last wednesday. I got behind and am now catching up on reading your web page.

As far as Linux as a client operating system, in an hour one can teach someone who has had no exposure to Windows how to perform basic tasks. In a day, one can teach an intelligent person all he needs to know to use Windows reasonably effectively and efficiently. With Linux, even something as simple as formatting a floppy diskette or installing an application requires a great deal of knowledge about the operating system. Dr. Pournelle has spent hours fiddling with Linux with little effect. If he can't accomplish simple tasks after putting in that much effort, how much chance does an ordinary user have?

My sister despises computers. Among other things, she prefers to write her papers by hand, and only after the paper is complete does she like to type it into Word on her computer. Anyway, she was able to sit down on my then mostly stock Redhat 6 system (the only change was to start x on login), and she was able to figure out how to play games and manipulate windows in a matter of minutes. With only slightly more time she could have figured out how to use the installed word processor, and copy files to floppies. Formatting floppies would have been a bit more difficult, but then, she doesn't need to do that much since all the floppies my family owns were preformatted.

At this point, she can log into her account on my box and use it. On my account now things are significantly more complicated than they were before. I prefer to mostly do my work from the command line, so I have Window maker stripped to a minimum, and it launchs several xterms on startup for me.

That is why I say that Linux will not make it as a client operating system, at least until it has a graphical shell that allows all the things normal users do to be done as easily under Linux as under Windows. That is not a flame, simply a statement of reality.

Maybe you are using the word client operating system differently than I do, but I think that linux is the perfect client operating system. I use client operating system to refer the the OS installed on the client stations on a network. In that usage, users often shouldn't be using floppies at all, and if the do need to, it is a simple matter for the administrator to add a format floppy icon to a menu somewhere. The one place where linux is mostly unsuitable is in the home. But then, current linux distributions still aren't really meant for normal people. If I were to make a distribution for home users, it would look very much like the iToaster (which uses BeOS, but it's users can't tell just from looking at it). Current distrobutions of linux are still meant mostly for programmers and server installs. And for those purposes, they aren't that bad. Sure there is still a bit of a learning curve, but hopefully programmers and server admins would know how to use internet sources other than just common search engines. Even for administrating NT, normal search engines aren't usually good enough.


Joshua Boyd

Well, we have different ideas about what comprises a decent client (or standalone) operating system. If one sat down and made of list of the 100 most common tasks a user might want to do, I think you'll find that an average user can puzzle out how to do all or nearly all of those tasks under Windows, but none or almost none under Linux. I used formatting a floppy disk as an example, but there are numerous other examples I could have used as easily.

As I've said before, I *like* Linux. But I don't think that even its biggest proponents, including Linus himself, would say that it's easy enough to use for people who are not computer geeks to be productive with it in a client or standalone environment. Setting up a computer for someone and providing icons or shortcuts for a certain number of specific tasks is one thing. Having an OS that is usable by ordinary people to do ordinary (and unpredictable) things relating to their work is quite another.

* * * * *

This from Matt Beland []: 

Having just moved to Phoenix, I cannot find my copy of "Grumbles from the Grave," but I have a nagging memory of a cover art photo in there of "Starship Soldiers." If my memory is correct - and it may very well not be - it was a British edition of Starship Troopers, printed in England by a British publisher. I don't think there was any mention of content changes, however. Or possibly, you (or I) may simply be from an alternative timeline.

Anybody seen Lazarus?

Matt Beland

PS - I can testify that these SouthWestern US yahoos don't know a thing about heat and comfort levels. A very dear friend of ours visited us in Chicago last summer - NOT during a heat wave - and couldn't function because of the heat. Whereas I am comfortable in long pants and a tie (or as comfortable as I ever am in such clothing) so long as I have a water bottle or other source of fluids.

I hadn't thought about _Grumbles from the Grave_ but when you mentioned it, I dug out one of my copies. On page 82, I found a cover shot of _Starship Troopers_ but it was under that name. I didn't find a cover of _Starship Soldiers_, British or otherwise. The text did note that the working title for the book was _Sky Soldier_ and Heinlein referred to the book in correspondence with his agent as _Starship Soldier_, but there was nothing about a printed book with that name.

As far as the heat, it appears finally to have broken. We're supposed to have temperatures in the 80's for the next week or so.

* * * * *

This from Dave Farquhar []: 

I'm sending this via my home account. I can bash Apple all I want from here.

A big part of it is that Apple has its users convinced they don't need pre-emptive multitasking. Mac users have trained themselves over the years to work around the Mac's limitations, but when presented with a PC's limitations, they're not as forgiving or willing to work around it (what do you mean my disk drives have letters!?).

My biggest problem with Apple is its arrogance. Their techs won't work with me when I have to fix a Mac; their solution to every problem is to reformat the hard drive and reinstall the OS. If it'll run MacOS bare, it's not their problem. Now, Apple isn't obligated to make third-party software work on their PCs, but if Microsoft can keep a knowledge base and alert its users to potential problems, there's no reason why Apple can't.

There's also their contention that they invented plug and play. Amigas were doing something like Plug and Play (they called it AutoConfig) in 1985, when the Mac still wasn't expandable beyond a second floppy drive and an Imagewriter printer. Apple fashions itself an innovator, but they've stolen every bit as much as Microsoft has. In some cases, they just stole before Microsoft did. (And, of course, Amigas had full pre-emptive multitasking in 1985 as well, which Apple still hasn't managed to roll out to the masses.)

I'm no Microsoft fan (not by any stretch of the imagination), but dealing with Microsoft is positively heavenly compared to dealing with Apple.

Good points. I agree with all of that. Whenever I think of Apple, the phrase "de mortuis nil nisi bonum" comes to mind. "About the dead, speak nothing but good." It seems to me that if something is a robust, going concern, everyone feels free to criticize and bitch about it. Everyone feels free to criticize some companies, like Microsoft, and that tells me that those companies are going places. When I come across a company or technology that one daren't criticize unless one is willing to accept a flood of flame mail, that tells me that that company or technology is on its last legs. In that respect, Apple has always been the walking dead, and Netscape has also joined that group. What really makes me wonder is that Linux is in that same group. Does this mean that Linux is doomed to die? That idea seems to fly in the face of all the hype, but I'm really beginning to wonder. On that basis alone, I have strong reservations about the future of Linux.

* * * * *

This from Chuck Waggoner []: 

Well, I spent a week, trying every conceivable combination of downloading (synchronizing) options, but none would update the background image; even returning things to the MS defaults did no good. So, I finally 'refreshed' the page with the browser today, and "Image1.jpg" now contains the new background. It's funny that in the Temp Internet folder, that file kept showing itself as being updated to newer dates, but it still carried the old parchment image.

There are so many faults with IE5--especially in the 'Synchronizing' feature,--but I guess it's just too much to expect that they will get it fixed in anything like a timely fashion.

--Chuck Waggoner [waggoner at gis dot net]

That is indeed strange. I guess the moral here is that if you use IE synch, you should do a manual refresh once in a while.

* * * * *

This from Robert Rudzki []: 

While I have been cursing the heat here in Southern California, the temperatures at 90-100 F. with low RH's typically 10-30% are normal for this time of year and certainly not intolerable given some shade, fans and plenty of iced tea with lots of lemon squeezed in. I have had to turn on the A/C only for several of the hottest 105 F. plus days. That ten feet of snow in Vermont tempts me at times until I remember walking to grade school in Chicago in January; -10 F., 20 knots of wind off the Lake and it was uphill both ways, I swear.

I see Jan Swijsen from the Netherlands does not like ordinary civilians owning guns, but let us remember that Belgium had [when I was there, 1983-1988] relatively lax gun laws for Europe. Many criminals in the rest of Europe used guns bought in Belgium and smuggled them quite illegally and used them in violation of the local law to kill competing drug dealers and settle scores. I seem to remember a couple of Dutch junkies from Heerlen in my kitchen at 0300 hours who looked real surprised at the sight of a Benellii M-121 shoved in their faces, they left pretty damn quick. The German police had our street staked out for these two, they had hit all the houses starting from the Rimburg border crossing [only 100 metres away] and they never came back to our street but did hit our landlord's town to the north for 14 more houses according to the police and the MO they had used.

As for knowing who to shoot, you are spot on. The Israeli rescue commandos shout get down in Hebrew and then shoot everyone still standing and they do whack a clueless American or two among the hostages who are still standing asking what the hell was that? Funny how the Arab terrorists tried hijacking only ONE El-Al jetliner [in 1975] and it landed in Tel Aviv and the terrorists had been led to believe they had landed in Beirut, boy and howdy, were they surprised... =8^-)

I still fondly remember that little Kriegel .22 bolt-gun, with a muzzle threaded for a ********* [re-dacted] permitting target practice in our German back yard with the neighbors none the wiser, even though they were in THEIR backyard at the time... A friend of ours had purchased it for her husband's birthday several years before in Brussels, and had to leave it behind since the Bee Aye Tee Eff takes a dim view of such d*evices imported into the US of A by ordinary military rotating back to The Land Of The Big BX. I had to leave it and gave it to a friend who would be staying a lot longer.

I saw in your Musings item about strangers wasting your time with calls at 0300 hours, can you give a little more detail on how you actually installed it on the old 386? [I know you are working on a lot of stuff, perhaps a link, if it is on the Web somewhere]

In a previous life, I was also wearing the phone guy's hat, responsible for maintaining and sending out for repair a 12-store medley of old key systems and sets, I recommended standardizing systems through attrition hoping to get to Nortel's Meridian in all locations but the owner said to make it Trillium TalkTo's which were obsolete by then and getting harder to find. 

We had a 20 CO line/40 station Meridian system at Corp HQ, nice stuff but expensive. We had paid $14,000 for this along with installation, to get automated voicemail would have been over $10 grand new and $6500 used, and yep, it ran on an old 386 PC hanging on the wall but the interface card and software were what killed you on price/performance! 

Voice mail was stored on a hard drive in digital format, as soon as the owner saw the price she nearly had a stroke, her Plan A was to get rid of the ditzy blonde receptionist at $6 per hour but you should have seen her legs! Our Plan B was that we got to keep the ditzy blonde AND her long legs! I know, most men are pigs...

[The company I worked for was privately held by the owner and her 20's-something son and everything you have heard about tiny single hole-in-wall mom and pop stores growing into large retail chains without the proper planning and control was true in spades, and don't get me started on the Boss's Son Syndrome...]

Pournelle in his 2 August 1999 BYTE column finally confirmed what I had long suspected, that his 'network' all these years was one giant cluster-f**k of a single flat NetBEUI workgroup with all the 'networked' printers, scanners and hardrives shared as local devices on peer to peer machines! Apparently he just slapped a $9 10BaseT NIC into each new PC he got, gave it a cute name and Presto-Changeo, it was 'networked'! I now know why he had all the trouble with drivers on the HP 4000 and so many other network issues he used as grist in his Byte columns.

Real Men Use TCP/IP For Everything! Except If Their Wives Make Them Buy Stuff That Doesn't Have Network Ports!

Well, he did publish my rant on 800 # dialing, so maybe I should quit while

I'm ahead... =8+]

Yep. And Real Men don't use DNS, either. They use IP addresses.

As far as the AA/VMS system here, I have a Panasonic hybrid switch that allows connecting either a system phone or an analog phone to any port. The 386/SX system has a Talking Technologies BigmOuth card installed in it. Unfortunately, TT is apparently out of business, so if this card fails I have a real problem. 

The reason I picked the BigmOuth card is that it was the only card (short of a big-bucks Dialogic or something similar) that supports supervised (or "smart") transfers. All of the other inexpensive voice cards out there do only dumb transfers. In other words, when a call rings in on BigmOuth and the caller presses #3 to ring my phone, the BigmOuth follows call progress. If my extension returns "busy", the BigmOuth can do whatever I've specified under programmatic control. If it gets ring-no-answer, it can do something else. And so on. Cards that do dumb transfers simply transfer a call to another extension and then forget about it.

The upshot is that with dumb transfers, the caller first hears, "You've reached the Thompson residence..." If that caller then punches #3 to speak to me and my extension is busy or ring-no-answer, I can program the Panasonic switch to return the call to the dumb card. But then the next thing the caller hears is, "You've reached the Thompson residence...".

With the BigmOuth smart transfers, the caller hears the same intro, but when my extension doesn't answer, I can bounce the caller into my voicemail box, have it transfer to my cell phone, or whatever, instead of just returning to the standard entry point.

* * * * *

Late morning: This is ridiculous. Last Friday morning, I posted the bogus Word dialog options.jpg that Dave Farquhar sent me. It ended up being linked to by several other sites, and has gotten something like 10,000 retrievals since I posted it. This one file is now accounting for more than 50% of my total throughput. It's less than 50 KB, but 1,000 reads of a file that size is nearly 50 MB, and 10,000 is nearly half a gig. I'd leave the damned thing up, but the links to it point directly to the graphics file, so people who retrieve it aren't really visiting my site. They're simply retrieving that one file and then going elsewhere. It's not doing me any good at all. So I deleted the file, and now I expect to get thousands of failure entries in my logs. Oh, well.





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Wednesday, 4 August 1999

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Another brilliant plan fails. Barbara apparently re-subscribed to TV Guide some time ago, and in the mail yesterday was the subscription premium, a One-For-All Remote Finder. That's two units, a small transmitter and a tiny receiver. You're supposed to Velcro the tiny receiver to your remote. When you lose your remote, you press the button on the transmitter, and the receiver beeps, allowing you to locate your remote. I asked Barbara what happens when you can't find the transmitter. 

At any rate, we don't have any problem with lost remotes, so Barbara said she might put the receiver on her key ring, because she does misplace her keys frequently. Is that a girl thing, or is it just that setter types don't have as many pockets as us pointer types? 

I suggested that there was an even better use for it. Attach the receiver to Duncan's collar and turn him into a Border Beeper. Duncan obeys very well when he's not focused on something else. The problem is, when he sees a squirrel or something else interesting, he's so focused on it that he doesn't even hear our commands. I thought that the beeper might serve to break his concentration so that he'd hear commands.

Barbara was taking Duncan out to Rebecca's farm (the woman who runs the BC Rescue and has several BCs of her own.) Every Tuesday evening, people show up with their BCs for training. Duncan with his beeper was a big hit among the humans, but all the other dogs laughed at him. And the beeper didn't work very well. One-For-All says it has a forty foot range, which is a joke, and even when it did beep he ignored it. So much for my cunning plan. No wonder Barbara sometimes calls me Baldric.

* * * * *

This from David Yerka []: 

Chuck Waggoner's problem with synchronizing pages w/o background changes probably has to due with IE5's changes in downloading temporary Internet files. If you check TOOLS->INTERNET OPTIONS->GENERAL->"TEMPORARY INTERNET FILES" SETTINGS you will see that the default is now AUTOMATIC. For some reason sometimes background images do not get refreshed if the image name doesn't change even if time and date info does with this setting.

I've seen this behavior on 2 or 3 different machines. I think all were Win98/IE4 upgraded to IE5. Changing the setting to "Every time you start IE" or "Every time you access page" or whatever seemed to clear up the behavior. 

Didn't really follow this up as I don't use synchronizing myself. I've got a single phone/56K line (read 45k max) and don't feel the need to tie it up in the background. If Bell Atlantic can get off the dime maybe I'll get DSL available within the next 9 months and with a constant high speed connect games like that will be worth trying.

Okay, thanks. I don't use synch much myself. I started using it every morning to update The Register because it's a fairly slow site. But that's all I use it for. I'm sure Chuck will appreciate your help.

* * * * *

This from Joshua D. Boyd []: 

I really should try to read everything before hitting the send button. Actually, the last send was an accident, I meant to hit postpone. Any way here goes.

As far as Vermont, it's more than just the gun laws that I like about it. It's the fact that they regard government as intrusive and something that should be absolutely minimized. It shows in all aspects of the way they do things there.

Around where I live, Vermont is rapidly starting to seem like the place to be if you have hippy tendencies. I wonder if that is related to what you said above. While I don't know many people who've moved out there, I have several friends that from time go out to Vermont to visit semi hippy friends of theirs. I don't even know if hippy is the right word anymore, although that is what some of them use. After all, wasn't it the hippies that got us where we are today? Further, most of these people seem to be more aligned with the republicans than the democrats these days. However, they still listen to the grateful dead, as well as newer, but similar bands like Phish and The Almond Brothers.

On gun control, I was watching 60 minutes last night. I know you hate that show, but I find it interesting sometime, although I always take it with several grains of salt. Anyway, they were covering in one of their stories the effect that the ban on assault weapons had. They showed a clip of Clinton talking about how they were banning weapons which had no purpose other than to kill people. Now, maybe I'm wrong, but wasn't the point of the fifth amendment to allow citizens to carry guns for killing people, to guaranty (I'm awful with spelling, and this machine doesn't have a very helpful spellchecker. I'm using a telnet account at the moment, since my home email is broken, and it is the ISPs fault. They recently came under new management, and are jerking me around all over the place. But I prepaid, and now don't have money to switch to another ISP) that they would be capable of staging an uprising if they ever felt the need? That's kinda hard to do if you are severely under armed, although not impossible.

In relation to your comments about Dvorak and the iBook, much as I agree that Jobs is an arrogant fool, and as much as I dislike the iMac mouse, and the transparent plastic of both machines, I think that he is turning out to be right. After, he isn't telling everyone that they are moving completely to those awful looking machines. They are still making more traditional machines. And the sales numbers for the iMac don't lie. That machine is selling really well. So much as you and Dvorak dislike those machines, Apple has apparently done the right thing. At the school where I am a CS major, many of the other CS majors have been heard saying that they would really like one of those iBooks, as soon as linux supports them. And Apple's market share does seem to be climbing again, although they still are way behind. If Apple was to dump their hardware, like you suggest they should, most people I know wouldn't buy their software. But then again, the people I know who use their systems are probably only a small minority. But they aren't limited to computer people. They are just people who prefer Apple hardware, and except the shoddy OS that goes with it, or maybe they upgrade to linux or Mac OS X. Many CS majors at my school respect Apple's hardware design, both in the way things fit together, and also at the electronics level. The PowerPC is a much cleaner CPU the intel. It is also cheaper (despite the fact that macs aren't), and for some things it is faster. It is certainly nicer to program assembly for than Intel CPUs are. Whoever at Intel though that 32bit mode should continue to have only 4 general registers (which aren't even really general) should be shot. I've spent time programming in assembly on many platforms, and intel is the worst. 

As far as the person asking about the market firsts, Apple may have been the first to offer a Laser printer to normal users. Their choice to use Postscript was definitely a better idea than PCL was. I don't really know if they were the first. though. Also, I don't know what you are thinking about when you guess that Dec had the first plug and play network, but if you are thinking of the Vaxen, I don't think those networks were really plug and play, nor were they among desktop machines. Apples were the first mass market machines with scsi. At least, I've never seen scsi cards for PCs that are older than the Mac Plus is.

Despite the fact that I sound like I'm defending Apple, I still think that their hardware is very over priced. Much as I would love a G3 (and not one of the G3 with the iMac color scheme) to run Linux and MacOSX on, there is no way that I can afford one. Actually, there probably aren't going to be any macs in my price range when I intend to next purchase a new computer, which is next spring sometime. I plan to spend somewhere in the range of under $800, and I expect a dual CPU machine with 128 megs of ram and a good video card (probably a TNT of TNT2). If Apple does drop the price of some of their iMacs to under $800, it still won't be a powerful enough machine for me.

I recently had the chance to try a Dell Precision 610 with 256 megs of ram and the Wildcat 4000 video card. That machine cost the same as high-end macs workstations do ($8000) and I'm sure that there is no way a single CPU mac can beat dual xeon 550s, and I know that mac doesn't offer any video cards with near that cards 3D performance. I was spinning a model with several hundred thousand polygons at a higher frame rate than even the schools Onyx could manage. That model crashed lesser NT stations with only 128 megs of ram and TNT cards. And frankly, to my knowledge, as Apple increases the performance of their machines going up the product line, they also increase their profit margin by several powers.

And now I move on to commenting about this week.

That image that you removed, options.jpg. Many sites check the refer before serving images. That keeps from happening to them what happened to you. I'm surprised that a service like pair would turn those types of options on automatically to cut down their bandwidth usage. 

I don't like that I how often I end up ranting about Windows NT, but I'm about to do it again. Maybe this problem is entirely Microsoft's fault, but it sure is bothersome. I working on a P2-450 machine with 128 megs of ram, and a Riva TNT card. The program I've been working in the most the past couple of days is 3D Studio Max. For the research team that I'm working on, I'm the only one who really knows how to manipulate 3D models well, so while the others are doing the programming, I'm ending up working in Max and doing the UI design, and web design, and all other types of things. Anyway, while working in max, max slowly takes up more and more memory (I'm even working on a small file by the standards of professional animators, since the project uses VRML, we need the extra speed that small models give), till suddenly I look and find that Max is using 212 megs of ram. And then Max crashes because it has filled the swap file and now NT has no clue how to recover. I then have to reboot the machine.

And this problem isn't limited to this one machine. I had this problem on every NT station I've ever run Max on. If fact, I've had similar problems running emacs on NT to analyze database dumps. And I've even found that some command lines programs that I've written run perfectly on unix boxes (Suns, SGIs, linux), but they develop memory leaks on NT. How does Microsoft expect people to take NT seriously as a replacement for Solaris and Irix if they are going to allow problems like to persist. Microsoft claims that the changes to the kernel that arrived in V4 were essential. If that is so, then why does Linux, Solaris x86, and NeXTStep run so fast with out pulling such stupid stunts? And since when do we need machines with 256 megs of memory to manipulate 1 meg files? 

Well, I have to go, since the render I was working on (this time it was a large file, I wanted to use the render as a texture map for a lower res model) has crashed and I now need to reboot again.


Joshua Boyd

Thanks. I've posted your message in full, although I regret that I don't have time this morning to respond to it.

* * * * *

This from Dave Farquhar []: 

Interesting points and good observations. They do say, however, that old computers never die. The ancient 8-bit computers of the late 1970s and 1980s still have surprisingly rabid followings--there's still tons and tons of stuff on the TRS-80 Color Computer (or CoCo to its fans), the TI-99/4A (which seems to be at least as popular now as it was when it was new), and the Commodore 64. The CoCo and the C-64 had fairly short reigns as majority platforms, but both were in production into the early 1990s (I think I read somewhere that the CoCo finally vanished in some ridiculous year like 1994; I know the last C-64 was produced in 1992).

Now, whether Linux is headed the way of CP/M... Rising stars seem to have the same problem falling and fallen stars do. I remember when NT was coming up, it took plenty of flak from all directions (especially Mac and OS/2 users). And it had the same identity crisis that Linux does right now: Server? Workstation? Next-Generation Consumer OS? Six years later, NT's two for three.

There are more Linux warriors than there were NT warriors; that's probably because there are more Linux users in 1999 than there were NT users in 1993-94. They're louder, but the Internet factor probably plays into that a lot. And a good number of Linux users are activists, like Richard Stallman, with Linux just being one brick in their wall of causes. Someone who feels his/her agenda hinges on the success or failure of Linux will go to extremes that you and I wouldn't. If Windows 9x dies, I can find other things to write about. If Windows NT dies, you can find something else to write about.

I don't think either Linux or NT stand a chance of displacing Windows 9x in the home any time soon (plenty of home users still want to play their old DOS games that break under NT, and I think Microsoft underestimates that. IBM did too--and that hurt OS/2 to no end). But in sub-$300 computers or "information appliances," I think Linux can really gain ground. It has a significant price advantage, after all. Linux might be able to win the war without even fighting it if it finds its way into the sub-$300 boxes that appeal to the 50 percent of computerless US households. Chances are the likes of you and I will end up buying some of those things too. Linux could achieve greater than 50% penetration by disguising its identity as a computer. Of course, it's not ready yet. But NT wasn't ready as a stable server OS in 1993 either.

Oh yes, as for your readership vs. Pournelle's... Remember, Jerry's been at this for 20 years, and he's got that "Hmm. I used to read Byte magazine a lot. I wonder whatever happened to it?" factor going for him. People visit, see the link, then visit Jerry's site, and bingo. Your past O'Reilly books don't have that benefit--if someone buys one of your books and likes it, he or she has to go looking for you. Just getting the kind of readership numbers you have is a pretty phenomenal accomplishment.

Jerry's numbers look pretty good... Until you compare them with Jesse Berst's Anchordesk. There's always someone with bigger numbers.

I don't doubt that Linux will make it as an embedded OS. In fact, I understand that one can now buy a Linux-based MP3 player for automobiles. You're right about the critical-mass issue in terms of the numbers of people that work with and know Linux. And you're also right about the "Save the Penguins" activism aspect of Linux. I made the mistake in some off-line mail of telling I guy that, although I like Linux, there are better alternatives available, such as FreeBSD, for running a web server. You'd have thought I'd told him his baby was ugly or something. I don't understand people who form emotional attachments to their operating systems. 

As far as web traffic, thanks for the kind words. What you say is true, and I'm not really in this to post high scores anyway, but I guess my natural competitiveness is always lurking in the background. I always have the underlying feeling that if something is worth doing at all, it's worth kicking your competitor's butts while you're doing it. Not that I regard Jerry as a competitor in any sense...

* * * * *

This from Frank A. Love []: 

I'm not surprised that Pournelle's site gets more traffic than yours since, in addition to being a computer writer, he is also a moderately well-known science fiction writer; but personally, I find your site to be more entertaining.

Where else can I read about subjects as varied as Starship Troopers, gun ownership, dogs and computer maintenance all in one column? It's like looking over your shoulder during the most interesting parts of your day. While I might not agree with everything you write or publish, you are always thought provoking.

I have five sites that I "visit" pretty much on a daily basis and I generally 'save' your site for last because you are pretty much guaranteed to have content that I will find useful, entertaining, interesting... or all three.

So you may not be getting Pournelle's traffic yet, but keep it up, I just found your site from a mention on Pournelle's site about four months ago. 

Concerning Robert Rudski's sneer at Pournelle's networking setup:

"Pournelle in his 2 August 1999 BYTE column finally confirmed what I had long suspected, that his 'network' all these years was one giant cluster-f**k of a single flat NetBEUI workgroup with all the networked' printers, scanners and hardrives shared as local devices on peer to peer machines! "

What's wrong peer-to peer networking on small (say 25 systems or less) setups? I know that there are theoretical advantages to client-server type networking but are the hassles of setting up a server for a small network system worth the trouble? Especially since his, like most small networks "just grew". Granted that, at some point, you need to step back and re-organize everything, but when would that be?

It seems to me that having a client-server type set-up on a small network just reintroduces the old single-point-of-failure vulnerability of the mainframe set-up. " I can't do my work, the servers down!" Small companies don't need that hassle!

Thanks for the kind words about my site.

As far as peer networking, I agree that it's a workable solution for a small workgroup, although I'd tend to set the upper limit at 5 or 10 systems rather than 25. Although I run a multi-domain environment here, that's to support my book writing, and I could just as easily use a workgroup. In general, my attitude is that if you're going to install at least two NT Server boxes on a network, you should configure it as a domain. It's really no extra trouble to do that, and the second NT Server box is a backup domain controller.

The problem I have with Pournelle's setup has nothing to do with domain versus workgroup. He's gotten it into his head that Workgroup = NetBEUI and TCP/IP = Domain. I've told him repeatedly that you can run TCP/IP on a Workgroup or NetBEUI on a domain, but the NetBEUI-Workgroup linkage is firm in his mind. The problem with running only NetBEUI, of course, is that he can access the Internet only from a machine that is physically dialed in to his ISP. But his network configuration may have changed. I understand that Roland Dobbins spent some time at Chaos Manor setting up TCP/IP for Jerry.

* * * * *

This from ROBERT RUDZKI []: 

Thanks for the info on aa/vms systems, I will be pursuing them tomorrow, today was eaten by giant lizards freed from deep underground caverns by secret nuke tests in the Sierra Nevada's...

The main spousal unit was trying to send a cover letter and her resume earlier this afternoon and of course I had set her up with the Wingate 3.02 Win95 client and disconnected her modem for a test. Naturally after many reconfigurations WinGate was buggered beyond all belief and I finally read the readme.txt that told me my NT Server standalone was not supported by WinGate as a client which explains some of the weird results I was getting. She could not send mail out so I etched down to bare metal, whacked all instances of WinGate server and client, put her back on her own USR 56k V.90 external so she could at least connect the way she had before and started troubleshooting the rest of the network.

I had gotten careless about pulling files across the small [4-node] home network we use to share the printer mostly, and tried installing from her machine without actually copying the file to my local drive it looked like it installed properly, buuuuut noooooo!

Anyway, after complete fresh installs of the WinGate Server and clients it works much better now. But God help me, I had to use a Win 95 FAT16 partition to install the client on the machine I am now on until WinGate releases proper NT client software... That old Celeron 300A sure be getting warm at 450/100 FSB on Windoze 95, I had to cut it back to 300/66 FSB since it is pretty hot here these last few days.

Tremendous surprise: Pournelle is using text labels in his leftmost column instead of those hideous blue icons and his animated .gifs are gone, replaced by static ones!

Don't suppose you would know why he did that, perhaps? =8^-)

Don't feel vertically challenged about his page hit counts, yours is the better and more interesting site by far and it now seems most of his page hits were internet morons fascinated by moving blimps and exploding PC's... 

I swear to God and the USAF this is a completely true war story:

When we were posted to Europe in the '80's my wife decided to further her education by taking a Master's degree in Information Systems from the USC extension that was out there, that program has now been sold to a Colorado school.

She was the only woman and the only civilian in the class, all the rest were USAF and Army captains trying to earn brownie points by getting a Master's so they could shine on the next promotion board which back then heavily favored off-duty higher education in the promotion rankings. I knew all of the USAF guys since we flew together on the NATO E-3A and the Army guys were from AFCENT, a big NATO command in Brunssum, NL.

Well, this was a well-read bunch of technical kinds of guys, and most subscribed to Byte and nearly all read it regularly and one month Pournelle pulled a real groaner in his column. Naturally this came up in class discussion and the instructor whose name escapes me now, told the class he had been a college roommate of Pournelle's and the man had not changed at all from back then...!

One thing I noticed about our 2 answering machines both fairly new, digital and with hang-up rejection, is how many times in each day the phone starts to ring up to 4 times and stops just short of the 5th ring which would trigger either answering machine.

The local paper ran an article about telemarketing and predictive dialers, explaining that a computer predictive dialer is feeding a room full of telemarketing sales people with dialed numbers trolled in sequence [to get the unlisted #'s] from each exchange, and to keep the queue full actually dials 105% of the calls that the reps could handle and this is what accounts for those mystery rings that just stop.

The irony was that the newspaper had an ad back in the job classifieds for 24 predictive dialer operators in that very same issue...!

Well, the giant stinky plant at the Huntington Library finally bloomed and smelled just like a horse dead a week in a hot climate, the local TV was going on about this for days, and the Library had set a record for the number of visitors hoping to see it bloom, heh, maybe they should put blimps and exploding PC's on their web site...

Robert Rudzki

My first thought was that WinGate isn't incompatible with NT Server because I use NTS as a WinGate client. But what you're talking about, of course, is the WinGate client software, WinGate Internet Client, or whatever they call it. I don't run that. I just configure my clients manually. Real Men do it that way...

As far as Pournelle's home page, I did do a quick and dirty fix of it last night. I got rid of the "hideous blue icons", optimized his gif and jpeg images, converted his left column to text links, etc. FrontPage gives an estimated download time at the bottom of the screen while you're editing a page, and I got his page down from 31 seconds to 9 seconds. When I sent it to him, he thanked me for my efforts, but said it was a little "bare-bones" for his taste. It is his site, after all, so although I strongly disagree with his choices, I defend to the death his right to make them. He did replace his old images with the optimized versions I sent him, though.

As far as Pournelle making errors, of course he does. So do we all. Most of us don't have the high profile he does, though. And some of those errors are not really errors, but simply inadequate information. For example, the thing about the Intel Sun River SR440BX motherboard he wrote about in his column. Jerry and I both have one of these motherboards. When he was building a system around it, he commented to me about the configuration jumper. I told him that it has three positions, one for normal operation, one for initial system configuration, and one for "recovery mode". The way it works is that you set it to config mode when you're first setting up the system, and then move it to normal mode. Pournelle swears that you have to open the case and move the jumper back to configuration mode any time you want to run Setup. I told him that that's not the way it works. You can run Setup any time you want with the jumper in Normal mode.

While I was building Barbara's new system around the SR440BX, I found out the problem. At least when running with the Pentium III/450, the video doesn't come on until the time has passed when you can press F2 to enter Setup. So by the time Jerry saw the opening boot screen, pressing F2 did nothing, which accounts for the fact that he believes he needs to reset the config jumper to Configuration mode any time he wants to run setup. I told him to just turn on his system and sit there pressing F2 with the screen still dark. That's the only way to get into Setup with the jumper set to Normal.

So, in one sense, what he put in his column about the SR440BX is an error. But it's an error that any reasonable man might have made.

As far as predictive dialing, I agree that it's annoying. That's why I gave up on trying to screen calls with an answering machine and installed an automated attendant/VMS system. Nowadays, when the phone rings it's almost always someone we want to talk to. We get a spam phone call about every two or three months. Those are from spammers persistent enough (or stupid enough) to listen to what sounds like an answering machine message before they get to the part that tells them what number to press to talk to specific people here.





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Thursday, 5 August 1999

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I found out first hand yesterday what fragmentation can do to an NTFS volume. My main workstation, kerby, seemed to be getting slower and slower over the last several days. Some other weird stuff had happened, including the speaker icon disappearing from the tray several days ago. So I decided I probably needed to reboot the system. I did that. Shutdown, as usual, took the better part of half an hour. When the system restarted, it wasn't any faster than before. 

It finally hit me that I'd turned off the auto-defrag in Diskeeper a couple of weeks back. I was trying to figure out what was causing the slow shutdowns, so I turned off many services that had been running in the background. One of the things I turned off was the Diskeeper defrag that had been scheduled to run at 3:00 a.m. each day. I'd gotten so used to having my disk defragged automatically, that I hadn't even thought about fragmentation as a possible cause of the problem.

When I fired up Diskeeper manually, the problem was pretty clear. The disk map screen was mostly bright red, indicating fragmented files. After running Diskeeper, nearly all of those files had been unfragmented, and my system was behaving normally again. You can be sure that I turned on the Set and Forget defragmentation. It'll be running at 3:00 a.m. every day from now on.

The moral here is that if you use NTFS, you should defrag regularly. After only a couple of weeks without defragmenting, my system was performing at literally half of its normal level. I use the commercial version, but there's also a freeware version, Diskeeper Lite, available here. It doesn't do scheduled defrags and some other neat stuff (like defragging directories) that the commercial version does, but Diskeeper Lite is sufficient for most users. If you don't have it, get it.

* * * * *

Interesting stuff in the paper this morning. The New Jersey Supremes have ruled that the Boy Scouts can't ban homosexuals. Why, I'm not sure. It seems to me that the Boy Scouts are a private organization, and have the right to accept or ban whomever they want. This is a First Amendment issue, but I saw no mention of that in the article.

Also, it appears that the Internet stock crash is accelerating. An article on that mentioned that had dropped from a high of something like $260/share to something like $88/share. I'm not sure how the market can support even that inflated price. We're talking, after all, about a company that has never shown a profit. Conventional wisdom says that their high share price in the absence of profits is justified because they're forgoing profits now to gain market share, and will presumably become dominant in their market niche. 

But that's an obsolete concept with Internet companies, and increasingly with non-Internet companies as well. Being first in a virtual environment is of very little benefit. In fact, it could be argued that it's a disadvantage. When you're first, you get to make all the expensive mistakes, and those who jump in later benefit from that. And customer loyalty is not a major factor with Internet companies. Customer loyalty is at root a matter of habit. You're loyal to a company because you're in the habit of shopping there. As long as they treat you right, you're not inclined to look elsewhere. Driving across town to save a few cents just isn't worth it. But with Internet companies, it's simply too easy to compare what other merchants offer.

* * * * *

This from Bo Leuf []: 

Bob, you wrote...

I posted the bogus Word dialog options.jpg that Dave Farquhar sent me. ... This one file is now accounting for more than 50% of my total throughput.

Geez. The web in action. I've heard of similar access spikes in other contexts, sometimes bringing down entire servers. The Web is fickle and "instantaneous" in its reactions.

Given your earlier reflections on being the less-visited of the Pournelle-Thompson constellation, such a significant popularity spike only for that bogus dialog must have felt especially unrewarding. But I never really figured you would be that affected by your site being an order of magnitude less visited than Jerry's. After all, people were buying Byte only to read his column (I confess to being one of those), and he collected many regulars while the old Byte Chaos Manor columns were on the Web.

"Be careful what you wish for, you may get it..."

/ Bo

"Bo Leuf" <>
Leuf fc3 Consultancy

Yes, I'm still wondering how the original person who posted the link to that file found it on my site. However he found it, he posted it, and others saw it at his site and put it on their sites, and so on. I don't even know who "case zero" was. Most of the traffic has been coming from, though.

As I said, I'm not really too concerned that Jerry's site generates an order of magnitude higher traffic than mine does. I have more of a "wouldn't it be nice?" attitude about that. But, as someone else pointed out, I do get a fair amount of traffic, especially given that I haven't really done anything to develop traffic other than just writing my journal. I suppose I could make some effort to promote the site, but to what purpose? I already get more mail than I can handle. If my site suddenly started doing Jerry's numbers, I wouldn't get any work done at all.

* * * * *

This from Dave Farquhar []: 

There seems to be a not-so-subtle difference between a "change the world" mentality and a "conquer the world" mentality. If you set out to change the world, you're more likely to end up doing both; if you set out to conquer the world, you'll just make too many enemies. An awful lot of Linux advocates fall into the latter category.

A quote from Steve Jobs (of all people) comes to mind. He was recruiting John Sculley I think--whoever the ex-PepsiCo exec was that Apple tapped for its CEO during its heyday. Jobs said, "Do you just want to keep selling sugar water all your life, or do you want to change the world?" 

Embedded systems have a bright future, and I don't understand why they don't just take that back route. Even Jobs acknowledges that--the iMac much more closely resembles a set-top box than it does the DTP stations of the Mac's past. Jobs is selling millions of the things, so why not gun for selling tens of millions of Linux-based information appliances?

The competitive spirit shows in your Web site and in your books, and it's definitely a good thing. I expect the site hits will pick up some more once your PC hardware book hits the shelves. And if they don't...? I suspect the Backstreet Boys sold as many records this past year as Leonard Cohen has sold in his entire career, but ask any musician which they respect. Quality doesn't always sell, but it can be its own reward. Leonard Cohen doesn't think much about the number of records he's sold (though interviews suggest he does think about who he sold those records to and gets a high degree of satisfaction from that).

Thanks. I suspect you're right about the site hits picking up once the books hit the shelves. If they don't it doesn't matter. If I were selling ads on this site (ugh), I'd be concerned about traffic. But I'm not, so it doesn't really matter. As far as embedded systems, you may well be right. It is perhaps an indicator of my age that I have no idea who the Backstreet Boys are.

* * * * *

And now begins, as the diplomats say, a full and frank exchange of views of the topic of Jerry Pournelle. This first message is from He sent it to ROBERT RUDZKI [] and bcc'd it to me (and to Dr. Pournelle, as it turns out):

Leave Dr. Jerry Pournelle alone. (notice the "Dr." in his Title)???

I'm curious? Why do you find the need to keep returning to his site? (otherwise, how would you know about the changes to his site and/or the so called "errors" that he talks about? )

Last time I checked, we were all in the good ol' US of A which gives each and every one of the right to CHOOSE: If you don't like the book, don't read it. Like wise with the TV and/or Web Sites on the Internet. Don't like them??? Stay the HELL away.

If you have nothing POSITIVE to comment on somebody's efforts, it would do you well to just SHUT UP, as the only thing you show with your derisive comments on Dr. Pournelle's work is your deep-seated RESENTMENT & JEALOUSY at how well RESPECTED and LIKED Dr. Pournelle really is.

In parting, can you ( or would you ever care to) list your personal list of Accomplishments?

- How many books have you published?

- When was the last time someone wrote a COLUMN in a Highly respected Magazine for 20 STRAIGHT YEARS uninterrupted? (if it sucked as bad as you make it seem, would it have lasted as long as it did? I think not ).

- How many Computer, Science and Space Conferences have you ever been asked to be the KEYNOTE SPEAKER for?

- If Dr. Pournelle is as "clueless" as you paint him to be, why, oh why, would MICROSOFT BOTHER to send Product Managers IN PERSON to Dr. Pournelle's house to provide PERSONAL Tech Support? In one word, RESPECT. If Dr. Pournelle REPORTS that a piece of software has a problem, then people listen.

I could go on and on... but why? Dr. Pournelle's list of accomplishments stand on their very own merit. You seem not to be able to stand it that he has enjoyed such success...

I think that in and of itself speaks volumes about YOURSELF as a person.

Have a NICE Day,


* * * * *

I sent Mr. Lopez email asking since he'd bcc'd me on this message, did he want me to post it or not. He replied as follows:

Mr. Thompson:

As is evident by the "tone" of my message, this guy pissed me off. I don't see the point in the mindless expulsion of negative vibrations towards another human being -- Especially someone of the stature of yourself or Dr. Pournelle.

Yours is a Web Site that I go to LEARN and be EDUCATED on the TECHNICAL aspects of computing. It's a tremendous resource and one that I appreciate to no end. 

My message to this individual can easily be construed as a "flame", and as such, it is entirely up to you if you want to post it or not. I hate to bring down the level of discussion on your site, but I clearly felt that this person needed to be "put in his place".

I BCC'd you on it because I read his SNEERS at Dr. Pournelle on your Site. Like I said, be my guest to post it. I'm sure I am not the only reader of your Site who is tired/bothered by this person's ridiculization of and/or constant, virulent attacks upon Dr. Pournelle and his Web Site.

I promise not to engage/reduce myself to a "flame war" with this person via your Web Site. I appreciate efforts such as yours and Dr. Pournelle's way too much to participate in that level of moronic, adolescent tripe.

Have a FANTASTIC Evening,

Alberto S. Lopez

* * * * *

And literally at the same moment the message from Mr. Lopez arrived, the following message arrived from Mr. Rudzki: 

Since I have switched machines around several times I no longer have the email I sent to Pournelle about the Sun River Intel board handy, but I did include a link to Intel's site pointing to the specific SR440 page which discussed configuration issues and cooling of the P-II properly.

And I received a rather emotional rant with lots of CAPS telling me this is a free country from Alberto Lopez at and I had better not criticize Dr. Pournelle ever again since he is so great and I am totally unworthy, etc. He copied Jerry on it and Jerry replied to all so I saw his comments as well, "Thanks for the kind words." As we say in the Middle East, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend."

I hold Jerry to a higher standard about errors in his computer writings since he has been doing it for so long and has gotten some very expensive handholding from IBM and Microsoft, entire teams of software engineers sent to his house for days at a time to fix and massage some new program. I can remember sitting on hold for hours trying to get OS/2 2.0 to work, the tech support guys were new and did not know much about cross-linking file problems, IBM chose not to send any guys to my house... =8^-)

As my wife said the other day, Jerry started shopping at Fry's after the print Byte folded and he no longer got tons of free hardware and software to play with and I suspect a lot of his phone calls were no longer returned from people in the industry.

I had originally started an exchange with Jerry when revamped his site shortly after Byte folded, his nagging about paying for the site finally got to me, after he told us how many large dumpsters of old hardware and software they filled while cleaning out Chaos Manor, his name dropping about the opera world, the beach house in San Diego, hobnobbing with the NASA elite, etc.

I told him asking us, the viewers to pay for his public vanity site when he made a "comfortable" living publishing books and had gotten literally tons of free equipment to review and keep was unseemly. Heh, my mistake was calling his site 'vanity' I thought he was going to have a stroke in the email he sent me. To his credit he did post my entire critical email when I asked him to, saying Roberta convinced him to do it. He does post critical email about himself now and then, leaving in all the typo's and misspellings. I wonder if he has every gotten a thoughtful well-written critique of his work, his books and attitudes, there must be someone out there besides the kooks who dislike his arrogance and self-promotion...? OTOH as Alberto pointed out to me if I don't like his site I have the 'freedom' to not look at it and that's an order...!

I think in some ways Byte outgrew Jerry, back when it was a hobbyist and tinker's magazine his stuff was ok we were all learning the ropes in the PC world then, and he simply outlasted everyone else and became the grand old man of PC's almost by default as it were.

My view is if you publish a site, shamelessly plug your books, solicit email and post discussions on many topics you will have to deal with the occasional person who will disagree with you and say so. The fact Jerry was courted and fawned upon by the PC industry for so long since his reviews were very important to them may make him less willing to tolerate dissent.

[I had read his review of how great "Grammatik" was, so I ran his column through it and sent it to him, Grammatik doubled the size of the piece with all its snide comments about improper structure and style, about half of the comments the program made were invalid or in error.

My point was that I had no end of trouble with the program, it didn't work very well and how he could give it such a glowing review only meant he didn't run very much text through it. I had tried a lot of things and switching styles of writing that was checked, even running parts of the Grammatik manual through it, which also found lots of bogus errors in their own documentation! I guess thoroughly testing software costs time and money, get the buyer to do your beta testing for you, then you can sell him a new improved version with 2000 tacked on the end of the name to make it seem on the cutting edge of technology, see Microsoft, etal. I take his recommendations with several grains of salt these days...]

As Andrew McIntyre once said, "Pournelle got a reputation as a technologist because he couldn't get his PC to work for 20 years". A man after my own heart... =^8-)

If you think this will generate too many flames, feel free to exercise your 1st Amendment right and not post it... =+8]

Robert Rudzki

* * * * *

And I received this followup this morning from Mr. Rudzki: 

I do indeed know that Dr. Jerry Pournelle holds a Ph.D. and I have used that honorific in the last couple of emails I sent him.

As for returning to his site, it is public and easily accessed from Byte's online edition and the search engines probably have lots of hits due to the sheer volume of the traffic there. Was I not supposed to notice the format changes on his site recently? I think most of them are for the better, I think Robert Thompson is a good influence on Dr. Pournelle.

To answer your questions in order:

I have never published any books, does a self-paced instructional module for the Display Technician NATO Conversion Course count? It was on trouble shooting the Interface Adapter Unit AKA Control Power Supply on the NATO E-3A AWACS but neither title really tells you what it does and I cannot go into that here or I would have to kill you. [Just kidding, it was so cool when Tom Cruise used that line on Kelly McGillis in Top Gun, I have always wanted a chance to use it...]

I think there are people in New York type magazines that have been published for more than 20 years in The New Yorker, Bill Buckley in his magazine, The National Review of Books, possibly others in the BeltWay around Washington, DC. But I may be wrong, I have been before...

I admit I have never been asked to be Keynote Speaker for anything, but getting lost on the way to a Mensa Convention in Long Beach from Studio City/Encino should be grounds for de-certification from Mensa... =8+] The I-110 Freeway goes straight down into the heart of Long Beach and all the good hotels are along Ocean Blvd. How hard can this be?

The reason Microsoft and IBM send entire teams of very expensive engineers to hold Dr. Pournelle's hand while he is trying to make a program run properly is that a lot of people like you read him and follow his recommendations, it isn't about respect it's the bottom line, Bunkie. 

Please do go on and on, I am starting to enjoy this... =8^-) 

I wish Dr. Pournelle all the happiness and wealth he can legitimately accumulate, but I prefer that he would validate some of his conclusions and trouble shooting rationales with people more knowledgeable in the area concerned before he publishes them...


I see Toyota must be making a premium on their trucks and cars since they let their employees surf the 'Net on the company's nickel...


Robert Rudzki





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Friday, 6 August 1999

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Here's something interesting on the memory front. Kingston is now selling "white box" memory as ValueRAM. I still recommend Crucial exclusively, but for those interested in something that falls between commodity RAM and Crucial, this site may be worth a look. It remains to be seen, of course, just how much cheaper (if any) the ValueRAM memory is than Crucial. My guess is that it will be somewhat cheaper, but not a lot. I'd be inclined to spend the extra money and go with Crucial.

* * * * *

The Register speculates in an article this morning that Intel may buy AMD. That would never have gotten past the anti-trust regulators, of course, but now that it appears that Via will be buying Centaur/WinChip, Intel can reasonably make the point that they will not have a monopoly on x86 chips. The article also speculates that Intel will wait for AMD to enter Chapter 11 bankruptcy and then ride to the rescue as a White Knight. AMD's credit rating just got knocked down a notch, and Chapter 11 is beginning to look more and more likely for AMD. My guess is that the K7/Athlon is going to prove too little and too late to save AMD.

* * * * *

This from

Thank you for taking the time to do what you do. I can't stress enough what a resource your site is to those of us who take the time educate themselves at every conceivable opportunity.

Alas, I can see where this discussion is heading with Mr. Rudzki He has determined that his rants have garnered the attention of someone and will most likely now "turn up" the level of "rhetoric" to be controversial just for the sake of being "controversial".

As I stated yesterday, I refuse to be drawn into a flame war with Mr. Rudzki. I've always been a strong advocate of taking the "high road" whenever possible, even is this is sometimes misconstrued as being "weak" or "not up to the challenge" by individuals like Mr. Rudzki.

I stand by the points that I made in defense of Dr. Pournelle. I enjoy his writings at Chaos Manor tremendously and refuse to just sit by idly and let someone take potshots at him without pointing out the positives of Dr. Pournelle's contributions to this industry.

Mr. Rudzki will continue to *bash* Dr. Pournelle. It is his right to do so. And, as I pointed out to him, I also have the right to avoid the sites where he is a regular contributor.

At this time however, the positives that I gain by reading your Journal on a daily basis FAR OUTWEIGH the occasional *smog* that is generated by Mr. Rudzki.

Please keep up the good work. You are helping more people than you probably realize.

Thanks for the kind words. I'm glad you find this site useful. And, although I know Jerry appreciates your spirited defense--he told me so yesterday--and although I generally agree with your position in this debate, I also think there is a kernel of truth in some (not all) of the criticisms Mr. Rudzki has raised. And I think Jerry would agree. None of us are perfect.

* * * * *

This from Jan Swijsen []: 

Regarding targets, the criminal is at a strong disadvantage. He is presented with a plethora of targets, and it's not immediately evident to him which, if any, of those targets are wolves (armed citizens) and which are sheep. The armed citizen, on the other hand, has no such problem. It's immediately evident to him which person is the target. The target is the one who is still standing and shooting at other people.

(from Robert Rudzki :) …Belgium had [when I was there, 1983-1988] relatively lax gun laws for Europe. Many criminals in the rest of used guns bought in Belgium and smuggled them quite illegally and used them in violation of the local law to kill competing drug dealers and settle scores…. 

For a criminal who doesn't want to shoot innocent people picking wolves from sheep is indeed a problem. These are normal criminals, they typically don't shoot to kill randomly, standing upright in the middle of a crowd. They are not that crazy. They pick their target carefully to make sure they hit and then try to get away with minimum risk. These criminals do some planning and are capable to get the weapons required for the ‘job’. Armed civilians are a real problem for them when they are getting away from the scene. There are also ‘soft’ criminals, they don’t want to shoot anyone they just want to steel stuff. They probably run when faced with a gun, any gun. Even an alarm pistol or a dummy may do sometimes.

Most of the recently reported mass killings however involved madmen shooting to kill. They don't care if they die, heck if no one does it they shoot themselves. For those there is no disadvantage, every moving object is a target. It is random point and shoot. Often these people don’t base their acts and preparations on reasoning but rather on emotional or political arguments. They buy weapons that are readily available and that don’t require a lot of paperwork or under-cover research. They often use self-made weapons like bombs and typically cause more confusion and media attention than anything else. No armed civilians will stop them.

As wolf you may see someone shooting at a target that you don't see. Is he a criminal or a wolf like you ?? You can of course wait till all others are death or down and then shoot the last standing man. Which maybe was the wolf that actually shot the criminal.

As I said if only criminals (and madmen) have guns it is easy to pick a target. Of course if only police have guns they are the easy and only target for criminals. So as self defense against criminals it looks OK to carry (even use) guns but against madmen things become complicated.

When you shoot at someone you can only be sure it was the right one afterwards. I would rather be safe than sorry, but maybe I would long be death if I lived in America. 

Here in Belgium we have rather stricter weapons laws these day and the only weapons readily (not easily) available are very light ones (.22 and airgun etc) and even these require a lot of paper work. But just like so many laws the control is fairly lax so it is easier to get heavy weapons here, if you know who and where to ask, than in countries with less stringent laws but better control.

I think what we're seeing here is the European outlook on personal weapons versus the U.S. outlook. Europeans have no history of going armed for personal defense, and indeed were historically often forbidden from doing so. Conversely, in the U.S. until very recently it was not at all unusual for ordinary citizens to go armed. Even now, although large cities, Northeastern states, and California have adopted the European model, it is commonplace for ordinary citizens to carry weapons for personal defense. 

I understand that most Europeans are shocked that so many Americans arm themselves, or indeed that they are permitted to do so. Many Americans, conversely, cannot understand why Europeans have permitted their governments to disarm them. Trusting your government often proves foolish. It is no accident that one of the Nazi's first steps on assuming power was to register and then confiscate personal firearms. An armed citizenry is the enemy of a dictatorial government. The Second Amendment to the US Constitution is the most important one, because without it the rest of the document is meaningless. Unfortunately, the US government has been attempting to void the Second Amendment, and has been having quite a bit of success in doing so.

* * * * *

And another one from Jan Swijsen []: 

One 'feature' that increases the apparent traffic on Chaos Manor is the Chaos there. I mean Jerry has lots of links on his mail and view pages and he often links the to same target from different places without making it clear that the links point to the same target.

While reading his page I often open such a link and return to the original page while the new one is loading to read on. When I then tile all the open windows (easy in Opera) I often notice that I opened the same page more than once. I also notice that when a link is repeated one or two days later you only notice that after you already clicked that link.

All this bloats the hit count. For Jerry that is unintentional, it is just the way he is. And it adds to the experience of his site, I like it there.

Some commercial sites do the same (multiple apparently different links to one target) intentionally. I don't like it here.

That's undoubtedly true. I could probably nearly double my page-read count just by breaking my daily journal into separate journal and mail pages. But I asked readers about doing that some time ago, and the consensus seemed to be that it made more sense to keep it all together. I may be forced to break it out, though. Not to increase my page count, but simply to keep the sizes down to something manageable. I try hard to keep pages to a size that will load in 60 seconds or less at 28.8, but that's getting tough. I'm at 59 seconds this moment according to the FrontPage counter.





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Saturday, 7 August 1999

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The update is late this morning because has been down. When I sat down at kerby this morning at 07:45, I couldn't get connected. After 15 minutes on hold with, I finally got connected to a tech, who told me that the whole region was down. Bummer.

I do a full network backup every Friday. Yesterday, I decided to do it using the Tecmar Travan NS20 tape drive that we just installed in Barbara's new machine. As I observed earlier this week, this is one fast drive. When I did my first test backup with Windows NT Backup, it averaged right at 100 MB/min for the small test backup. So I decided to see what would happen if I used this drive to backup a real data set.

Just as a basis of comparison, I planned to do one backup with NT Backup and then a second one with BackupExec. The NT backup appeared to be working correctly, but it crashed and died horribly with an error message about encountering something unexpected. That's not the first time I've encountered that error message with NT Backup. I've seen it on half a dozen different machines running several different models of tape drive. I've concluded that NT Backup is seriously flawed, and should not be depended upon for any serious backup needs.

I did learn one thing from that pass with NT Backup, though. I'd almost concluded that the network wasn't fast enough to back up data from remote volumes at faster than 17 MB/min or so. That was based on using the Seagate Travan TR4 drive and the OnStream DI30 drive, both with more than one backup software package. But that turns out not to be the case. I was watching the instantaneous backup rate with NT Backup, and it was doing 60+ MB/min over the network. Another good theory shot to shreds.

After NT Backup crashed and burned, I fired up BackupExec and started the backup again. After 15 minutes, it had backed up about 1.5 GB of data, and was holding very near 100 MB/min. After about an hour and a half, it had completed the backup. It totaled about 6.2 GB, at an overall rate of just under 70 MB/min. That didn't seem like a large enough backup set, so I did some checking. I found out that the backup had included only theodore and odin (a Win98 box). 

BackupExec had refused to backup the other NT servers on my network. I suppose that's reasonable, given that it's the "single server" edition. I actually have two versions of BackupExec. The Single Server version that I installed backs up one server and any number of "workstations", which are apparently defined as any machine running Windows 9X or NT Workstation. It won't touch a remote machine running Server, though. The Workstation version of BackupExec will back up the local machine and any mapped drives elsewhere on the network, including those on other Servers, but it won't install on a machine running NT Server rather than Workstation. Arggh. 

* * * * *

This from Robert Rudzki []:

The 'true' war story about the instructor in the USC extension in Europe being a college roommate of Pournelle's was incorrect and quite wrong, certain people who were there in the classroom inform me he was only in classes with Jerry not actually rooming with him, I regret the error and apologize for getting the story wrong. After all, we all know how important it is to be accurate and truthful...

I saw Alberto's post in your daynotes today, quite a change in his writing style from before, it almost seems like a different person.

I was impressed at first by Anand Shimpi's intelligence and energy but noticed he seemed a little immature and giggly. Much to my surprise I saw something on the Web stating he was still in high school, I think he was 16 at the time. I rarely visit his or 'Dr.' Tom's site anymore, the junk ad streams are just impossible! Don't sell out and post ads, please!

[Start WinGate And DNS Rant]:

I got all 4 of our machines connected to WinGate today using only Windows NT clients, the main spousal unit went off to Burbank, Lancaster and then tomorrow to Martinez [North SF Bay area] to help her baby sister [she's 38!] move houses to a new job in the same company, the old bigger frog in the much bigger pond trick.

Taylor [AKA the wife] runs Win 95 SP1 mostly on her home machine, a Compaq 9660 with 72 MB of ram. I tried the WinGate 95/98 client on it and it sort of worked but I still had DNS and dialer issues on the WinGate server which is also the PDC on the local system. So after she left this morning I tossed the Win NT CD-ROM into my 40x Toshiba as I already have a share mapped to it on the network and installed NT Server on her machine as a stand-alone dual-booting with Win 95 into a FAT 16 hardrive. By this time I can configure WinGate in my sleep so after loading Outlook 98 it was less than 2 minutes later that her POP3 mail was streaming down.

I have my WebCam2 running on the PDC which also contains the 56K modem and having the camera ftp client dial direct or use ftp port 21 re-mapping on WinGate was the $64 question for today.

The original problem was that if the modem was not dialed in which is the case most of the time, when the WebCam2 captured and tried to send the image by ftp to my ISP it could not resolve the ftp server name and thus gave a DNS error. So I set it to dialup its own modem locally for the ftp transfer but I kept getting WinGate communication errors and had to reload it several times. I think it may be a bug or else I have it all buggered up again but it may be an old hardrive and a machine getting on in years. I have all the bios setup defaults loaded and run this old AMD K5 at spec and its 64 Meg of memory at 70ns even though it says 60ns on the chips. If dialed in, then there is no problem with the ftp transfer.

As part of my tests, I set the DNS tab in Network Neighborhood TCP/IP Properties to, and respectively [the local WinGate machine, primary and secondary DNS for PacBell.Net].

No DNS was set on any of the other machines, DOMAIN was the domain and was the suffix.

When I rebooted and displayed GateKeeper, there were tons of DNS lookups on a previous ISP [?] and my current one!

The hard drive was chunking away filling the logs and I had no other processes running until I found 2 installations on 2 machines of IIServer that were sort of buried in the Programs group.

I whacked them both, then removed all entries from the DNS tab. I re-mapped ftp port 21 in WinGate to port 8021 to my ISP's ftp server and all is well, it ftp transfers the .jpg once on the hour and still allows the other 3 machines to get in, surf the 'Net and read both of our email accounts on different ISP's.

[End WinGate And DNS Rant]:

Well I must be off to the opera now, I have to meet The 3 Tenors for a long important dinner at Chasen's afterwards, do refresh often, Ta Ta For Now... =+8]

Robert Rudzki

Frankly, I'm not sure why you care what some other guy 40 years ago thought about Pournelle. I mean, maybe the guy was a moron then, maybe he just didn't like Jerry. Maybe Jerry was everything the guy said he was then, but that's forty years ago. I also did some stuff in college that I wouldn't do today. So what does any of it matter?

As far as ads on this site, you'll never see them. People who should know tell me that I could convert this site into an ad-laden monstrosity, break up my pages into small chunks, etc. and generate at least a grand or two a month, but it's not worth it to me. I hate ads. I despise ads. There will never be ads on this site.

I didn't realize that you liked opera. I can't stand it myself.





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Sunday, 8 August 1999

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Not much going on today. Barbara is getting ready to head over to Burlington (about 60 miles from here) to pick up a couple of abandoned Border Collie puppies. She just told me that when she returns I have to help her clean up. My stuff is spreading, as usual. I still have the kitchen table covered with computer stuff, and it's started to migrate into the dining room and guest room.

I read the latest from Stephen Coonts (Cuba) and Patricia Cornwell (Black Notice) yesterday. The Coonts book was typical of him--a decent but not-quite-Clancy adventure novel. The Cornwell book was her usual--sloppy, ludicrous plot, cardboard characters, and an abrupt ending that does not tie up the various plot threads. I don't know why I continue to read Cornwell, or indeed why anyone else does. Force of habit, I guess. Her first books were seriously flawed, but entertaining nonetheless. She's been resting on her laurels for the last several years, though. People are going to start to notice.



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