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Daynotes Journal

Week of 9 August 1999

Sunday, 15 August 1999 07:54

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, 9 August 1999

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Barbara brought back the two Border Collie puppies, Finn and Flash, yesterday morning. They're six months old, weigh about 25 pounds each, and were living in an inappropriate setting. Neither of them is house-trained, as we quickly found out when we brought them in for a quick picture session. Barbara wanted to keep Finn, who spent most of his time making friends with her. Here's a picture of Finn with Duncan, who doesn't look too happy to have Finn in his face. At any rate, Barbara decided that she still wants to start with a young puppy, probably sometime around the end of this year. So Finn and Flash are living out at Rebecca's farm, pending someone adopting them.

* * * * *

This from Robert Rudzki []: 

You seem to have wide ranging tastes in books, have you read any of Len Deighton's stuff? He is mostly espionage fiction but some military history, several of his books were filmed with Michael Caine playing the SIS guy with no name. He gets most of the technical stuff right and the spy stuff from what little I know about it.

His last two trilogies with Bernard Samson kind of were overtaken by events in the re-unification of Germany he had to hurry to finish some of them before they became totally irrelevant. Ian Hendry played him in the PBS series, as always the Brits give good TV.

While I am opposed to tax money funding TV if it weren't for PBS would any on-air network carry those types of programs here? My wife and I can spend hours watching David Attenborough showing us strange bugs and animals in the Interior of Borneo, I wonder if the Melrose Place crowd would be interested enough to attract advertising dollars?

The WinGate PDC went back to dial-up connections today, if only I could pause the ftp connection long enough for the dial-up link to complete...

Most of today was devoured by giant scorpions emerging from an extinct volcano caldera after an earthquake, I struggled with revamping my home page using that accursed FrontPage Express. [it's even worse than FrontPage 98 since it's free!]

Why that program changes image filename case and breaks working links I cannot fathom, worse still, it does it randomly!

I see in the news that the Speaker of the State Assembly Villaraigosa publicly thanked the Mexican President for his help in having agitators here help bring down Prop 187 the initiative banning most kinds of welfare to illegal aliens, I guess the 5 million California voters who pushed it into law were just misguided...! Don't vote, it just encourages them!

Well, back to my Web Page half the links on no longer work... =8+]

Yes, I've read all of Deighton's books, I think. He has the same problem that Clancy et alia have: the US no longer has any credible enemies. Come to that, the same problem the US military has. So now the government and military are forced to manufacture enemies to justify the continued existence of a military machine designed to take on another superpower.

As far as PBS, I think government funding should be withdrawn completely on two grounds, one philosophical and one practical. On philosophic grounds, I have always been uncomfortable with a government sponsored and controlled media outlet. I know that a lot of smart people watch McNeil-Lehrer, but it's always brought to mind the Voelkischer Beobachter to me. We don't need the government telling us what to think. In practical terms, PBS does a poor job, and one that could be done much better by the free market. Of course, that won't happen as long as PBS remains as a subsidized outlet for that type of material.





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Tuesday, 10 August 1999

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Much work yesterday on Barbara's system. One of the things I was working on was ripping CD audio with her new Plextor CD-ROM drive. Most IDE CD-ROM drives don't do Digital Audio Extraction (DAE, or ripping) at all. Those that do often do it much more slowly than their rated speed. For example, I have a 36X Toshiba here that rips at about 6X, and it's the fastest IDE ripper I have. When I installed the Plextor Manager 96 utility, I found that the 32X Plextor ripped at 24X. In other words, it rips an entire CD in two or three minutes. If you're doing much ripping, and particularly if you already have a SCSI adapter installed, a Plextor CD-ROM drive is the way to go.

And that brings up an interesting discovery. As I was experimenting with ripping, I decided to play one of the tracks I'd ripped over the network. The ripped tracks reside on theodore, Barbara's new system. I mapped a drive on kerby to theodore, and double-clicked one of the .wav files to play it. I was very surprised to see that the application associated with .wav files was IrfanView, my graphics viewer. Okay, that's a bit strange, but what the heck. Whatever works.

But as it turns out, it doesn't work very well. I immediately noticed that my system was performing like molasses in February. When I brought up Task Manager, I found that IrfanView was sucking down 99% to 100% of the CPU. What was really amazing was that the CPU time counter was incrementing in real time. That is, playing a 4:32 track took 4:32 of CPU time. Ugh. I found the dialog where IrfanView had mapped a whole bunch of extensions to itself and was getting ready to disassociate .wav files from IrfanView when I decided to check the version. I was running v2.80 and the current version is 3.05. There are a couple of things in the feature list for the several upgrades since 2.80 that lead me to believe the problem may have been fixed. I'll check when I get a few spare minutes.

* * * * *

This from Paul S R Chisholm []:

(I'd rather not *have* to do this, but I'm glad I *can*.)

Tools / Options / Security / Internet / Custom Level

Cookies: set both values to "prompt". Now you know which hosts are sending you cookies. Annoying, but useful for gathering information for the next step.

Tools / Options / Security / Restricted Sites / Sites

Stick with the default Restricted Sites policy, or at least leave cookies disabled in that zone. Add the following sites:

* (a new one to me today)

The worst of the cookies are now cut. One small step for a browser....

Very nice. I didn't realize that one could use wildcards for Restricted Sites. I'd actually gone in to Options to do this some months ago, but gave up because I couldn't be sure of getting all the full host names. If I'd realized I could use wildcards, I'd have done it that way. Instead, I took the opposite tack. I added sites I trusted to the Trusted Sites list, enabled cookies and so on for Trusted Sites, and kept everything turned off in Internet Zone sites.

Incidentally, your list got me to thinking. I believe that it's rather than, so I went in and added both the .com and .net TLDs for each SLD. I also added LinkExchange. Now, to re-enable everything in Internet Zone and see what happens....

* * * * *

This from Chuck Waggoner []: 

So, I suppose you are expecting me to jump in here about PBS, for whom I worked well over a decade.

Originally, PBS was in large part, founded by the encouragement (and often the donations of) commercial TV stations who wanted those stations to take on the 'public service' broadcasts which made no money, but were once mandated for all stations by the FCC. The commercial stations were even the crucial key in lobbying state and federal governments to provide financial support for the 'public' stations.

It worked; once every market had its own PBS outlet which ran those programs, the FCC eventually withdrew the requirements that commercial stations must include such money losers as educational, children's, religious, and 'community affairs' programs, which could not be sold at even minimal rates.

I agree that PBS could do much better, but not at the funding levels they receive now. Overall, the System (it's not really a network) gets nowhere near the percentage of per-capita money that the BBC receives. Even the best stations in the System usually have total budgets that barely equal just the newsroom budget of one their commercial competitors. \

Having also had a small connection to the BBC, I can relate that the 'high-brow' programming that the Beeb is famous for, is so much the result of an upper-crust, class-oriented competitive drive that I don't think our equality conscious country can even understand it, much less emulate it.

In Chicago, where I worked for a good number of years, the PBS station there was part of the 'ad test' in the early 1980's, which experimented selling blocks of high quality commercials which played between, but did not interrupt, programs. I think this held incredible promise for eliminating the need of government money and would have put pressure on commercial stations to reduce the frequency and number of advertisements they run inside the their programs. But at the time, our insightful Congress saw it differently and wanted to continue spending your tax dollars on PBS, and not let them try and support themselves (the ad test was devised by a consortium of stations who, after years of lobbying, got temporary approval of Congress--but, as you might guess, it was NOT a government initiative).

Until a method of replacing (not eliminating) the public money is devised--like the ad test proposed,--I remain a supporter of public funding for public broadcasting, because as far as the free market producing programs of the caliber of the BBC or the best of PBS--not a chance! 

--Chuck Waggoner [waggoner at gis dot net]

I didn't realize that you worked for PBS. In case it wasn't clear from my earlier comments, PBS runs exactly the kind of shows that I watch almost exclusively (except, of course, for Buffy the Vampire Slayer). I admire the shows PBS runs, and I'm sure that the folks in the trenches, like you, are doing the best job they can under very difficult conditions. For years, Barbara and I sent a check in annually. We finally stopped because the begging got to us. Actually, it was more than that. The first time I saw a commercial on PBS, I told Barbara that was the final straw. We haven't sent in a cent since PBS started running commercials, nor will we do so. Many other people I've spoken to have told me the same. Running commercials will be the death of PBS.

PBS can't succeed on either the begging model or the commercial model. When there were only a very limited number of on-air channels available, PBS provided a true alternative. Now that there are hundred of cable and satellite channels, that's less true. PBS has been OBE. What PBS needs to do is spawn off a commercial premium cable network. I would happily pay $5 or $10 a month for that channel, and I'd bet that millions of other people would, too. For that matter, I'd happily pay for BBS if my cable system would run it. I've been told that cable systems don't run BBC because of the time difference. That seems absurd to me. All the premium operations run time-shifted feeds for ET through PT, and there's no reason that the BBC couldn't do the same. And, yes, I realize that 90% of what the BBC runs is garbage, but I'd be willing to pay for the 10% that isn't.

* * * * *

This from Daniel Seto []: 

In practical terms, PBS does a poor job, and one that could be done much better by the free market. Of course, that won't happen as long as PBS remains as a subsidized outlet for that type of material.

Do you really think that the WB, or Fox, or CBS for that matter would, all of a sudden start to produce Masterpiece Theater, once PBS is shut-down? Do you think that out of nowhere, NBC would decide that it is profitable to fund Nova? Or Firing Line with William F. Buckley (I can see it now, the Firing Line Channel brought to you exclusively by Colt Manufacturing) or Wall $treet Week with Louis Rukeyser? I think not. Because if PBS doesn't do it, who will?

You can take away my remote control when you pry it from by cold dead fingers.

Dan [dkseto at email dot com)

Yes, I do, actually. Not the commercial networks you mention, because over-the-air networks have no way other than selling commercials to recoup their costs and make a profit (unless you count per-set licensing as in Great Britain). But I have no doubt that a cable/satellite network would take the place of PBS quickly and do a better job of it.

You mention Masterpiece, but for such flagship series as Masterpiece, Mystery, Nova, and Nature, PBS mostly simply re-packages content actually created by the BBC and third-party producers. PBS is now losing content bidding wars to such commercial networks as A&E, who can pay more, and this trend is likely to continue. And, in case you hadn't noticed, PBS is no longer commercial-free. They're now running full-blown commercials frequently on such series as Mystery. Granted, for now at least they're not interrupting the content to do so, but how much longer will that last? I remember when The Discovery Channel first started they ran commercials only on the half-hour, and ran shows uninterrupted. That changed quickly, and the same thing is likely to happen with PBS. Once you're a whore, you're a whore. All that's left for PBS is the haggling over price.

As I've said here before, the ultimate Good Thing is for everything to be unbundled, which networks and content providers (and particularly advertisers) fight tooth and nail to prevent. We're starting to see the unbundling now, with additional inexpensive premium channels becoming available. One can choose these channels individually and pay only for the channels one wants to subscribe to. 

I hope we'll eventually see true unbundling, where every show becomes available on demand as pay-per-view. That will result in several things. First, the weak will no longer survive by being subsidized by the strong. Bad shows will die quickly if no one is willing to pay to watch them. Second, shows and producers that do draw an audience willing to pay for them will gather resources that they can use to improve the product. In the end, we'll end up with a much wider choice of quality product, fewer potboiler shows, and a better viewing experience for everyone. I can't see that the PBS model has any role to play in that.

* * * * *

This followup from Daniel Seto []: 

I understand, I think, what you are saying and agree to a certain extent. But is popularity (as defined by the number of people willing to pay for a show/channel) the sole indicator of what is worthwhile?

And further, what kind of community do we create when we reinforce self-centered choices as opposed to community-centered ones. For example, my taxes pay for a lot of services that I do not use. On the other hand, I use some services that others don't. If I understand your thoughts, and apply it to taxes, we should unbundle taxes and pay just for the services that we use. Is this wise public policy, even from a purely self-centered point of view?

The problem with that is we all lose something in the end rather than gaining some and losing some under the present system. We are no longer a community, and become less than the whole.

Dan [dkseto at email dot com]

Popularity, as defined by how many people are willing to pay to watch a show/channel (and how much and how often they are willing to pay) *is* the sole indicator. The problem here is that you're using a value judgment, "worthwhile", as though it were an absolute. What is worthwhile for you may not be worthwhile for me. You think that Nature and Nova are "worthwhile." As it happens, I agree, but we happen to be in the minority on that judgment.

So, in effect, by using the term worthwhile as an absolute and by suggesting that tax money, which is ultimately extracted from people at the point of a gun, should be used to pay for implementing your choices, you are (consciously or unconsciously) putting yourself in the position of making decisions for other people. I'm sure that's not your intention, but it is the result nonetheless. I, on the other hand, am arguing that it is each person's right to make his own decisions (by voting with his dollars) whether or not I happen to agree with those decisions. Something that can live only by depending on a government subsidy should not live at all. 

All that you accomplish by subsidizing one thing is to damage something else that is not so favored. We saw this with the Chrysler bailout many years ago. Everyone pointed to this as a successful example of the government temporarily subsidizing a company to get it over a rough period. Thousands of jobs were saved, and so on. What they never mentioned was the thousands of companies that were unable to expand or forced out of business as a direct result of that subsidy. Companies much healthier than Chrysler were unable to borrow money at affordable rates. The result was that thousands of jobs were lost (or never created in the first place). The net result was that we were all poorer.

And the same thing goes for taxes. The simple fact is that the government cannot do anything worth doing as efficiently and effectively as private enterprise can do it. The only things government excels at are things that no one really wants done anyway. Or, if they want them done, they're not willing to pay themselves to have them done, which amounts to the same thing. So, yes, we should unbundle taxes, and force the government to compete on an equal footing. There's a reason why the US Postal Service sends things via FedEx or UPS when they want them to arrive on time.

As far as your point about "community", I don't understand. Are you saying that giving people more choices damages the sense of community? I don't think so. Or are you saying that people should be forced to be a part of a community that you define, whether they want to or not? Either way, I don't much care for the idea.

* * * * *

This followup from Daniel Seto []: 

I guess I'm not being very clear when I talk about community. Let me put it this way, think of enlightened self-interest. If you unbundle taxes, you are saying you are willing to pay the full cost of all services that you consume but not for others ("the weak"). Note that you do not pay the full cost now because others are subsidizing what you use.

Having said that, would your total costs be less? Possibly. If you do not interact with others very much (there are some people living in communes who may fit into this category). But as you interact more and more, the potential costs rise.

For example, a publisher contracts with you to write a book on NT Administration for the amount of $100,000 upon delivery. On January 1st you deliver the finished book to the publisher whereupon you demand payment. The publisher refuses payment because it's in their short-term interest to make as much money as possible regardless of what they may have contracted for.

You decide to sue and go to your local Circuit Court to file a complaint. While there, you are told the fee for a projected three-day trial is $150,000 payable in full, immediately (e.g. California requires full payment of all civil trial juror costs prior to the court date - no payment, no trial).

What do you do? For the sake of your argument do you then say that there shouldn't be public courts? That all courts should be privately run by corporations? If so, how do they enforce their judgements? By private police (do you see a trend developing here)?

The point being that no service that you or I use is paid for in full by the fee that is charged. And therefore perhaps its OK that I'm paying for somebody elses service because its in my own self-interest (i.e. it can cost me less for the services that I use).

Bottom line is that any country has that has any legitimacy gains that status by the consent of the governed (the community). If we go by the dictum that its everyone for themselves, then I think more choices are not necessarily better (yes; this is a value judgement but so is deciding to unbundle everything) than the choices we have now.

In effect, you are arguing that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, or that we are all getting more than we are paying for. That's a logical absurdity. In fact, with government, we all get much less than we pay for, probably the equivalent of a few cents for each dollar extracted from us in taxes. With the free market, both parties to a transaction win. If you are selling items for $1 each and I buy one, both of us have won. The item is worth more than $1 to me (or I would not have bought it). The item is worth less than $1 to you (or you would not have sold it). With government, the use or threat of force skews things. In effect, if the government sells items worth $1, they price them at $10 and force everyone to buy them. Everyone loses, except the government.

Yes, I would much prefer private courts to public ones. We have them now. The process is called arbitration. And I wish publishers paid $100,000 for NT books.

* * * * *

This from Robert Rudzki []: 

Heh, I notice a certain science fiction author tells us how odd Intel mobos are in that you have to move a jumper to get into BIOS setup in his latest column on-line... I remember your explanation of the 'problem' a few daynotes ago.

I went to the Intel site to send him the PDF manual link for the Sun River mobo, but even though I have Acrobat installed, it won't download the pdf, just a box with the little red x on a blank screen showing it can't see the image.

Since I signed with I have noticed I cannot any longer download pdf's by ftp. They do warn you that they do not support anonymous ftp and telnet for security reasons. Yet when I clicked on a Word document in the Intel ftp directory it asked if I wanted anonymous ftp or a user name, I clicked the first choice and it downloaded fine and opened the doc in Word 97 just like expected. My WebCamII is ftp'ing mostly fine once per hour but I do get a cryptic ftp error now and then. The logs aren't showing anything odd. My young nephew who has turned into a real network kind of guy these last 3 years said WinGate is full of security holes in its default ship configuration and the logging is pretty crappy as well, now he tells me and I have almost decided to send them some money...

Not having telnet access to my shell account is a real bummer, I used to be able to tweak my home page folder quite nicely using the few Unix commands I had learned and the tech support guy gave me the alias names of the more powerful commands they keep hidden from the clueless who just bought an O'Reilly Unix book and want to play guru.

Next class session is the last and the final test, the instructor wants me to be her lab assistant in the fall for three classes, she said I can even pay you real college money since the funding comes through in the fall. Summer sessions around here don't get jack from the school, they even limit the number of copies an instructor can make of class handouts. Considering California would have the 7th largest GDP in the world if it were a country, where is all that tax money going? Certainly not the Community Colleges!

Then she gives me the email of another instructor who also wants me as a lab assistant for his NT Server class in the Fall, well I used to teach Display Technician Conversion courses in NATO and fly with the operational guys to hammer home the class points, I guess it's time to go back to work. 

[I had more hours in type than anyone by far at NATO, AWACS was the '80's equivalent of gun-boat diplomacy and TR's Navy sabre-rattling before The First Great War when we were based out of Oklahoma. The bad part of all the massive mission commitments our 552nd Wing had was that you do not accumulate points for Air Medals in areas that don't exist and places you are not at, if you catch my drift and I see that you do... And Air Medals count for promotion, I made Master Sergeant in 13 years with absolutely no formal PME and that is not supposed to happen.]

The main spousal unit Taylor is all for it, her view is that one of us always has to have a real job, the other must either be working at an 'interesting' job or going to school. She was threatening me the other day, if I should finish my MCSE stuff she would start work on a Doctorate! But she just accepted a lot more money to work for a different employer so I am safe for a while.

Robert Rudzki

It sounds to me as though your wife has the proper attitude.





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Wednesday, 11 August 1999

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I'm sorry to say that the experiment with using IE5 Restricted Sites didn't work out, so I'm back to disallowing everything by default, and allowing free access only to sites I specify. Within an hour after using the list Paul Chisholm provided yesterday, I found cookies from half a dozen obnoxious tracking sites. These included HitBox, ValueClick, TeknoSurf, and ImagineMedia, among others. So much for that experiment. The slime crop up faster than you can stomp them down.

The first message brings up the subject of me posting email addresses. I've said this before, but it bears repeating. If you don't want me to post your email address, please TELL ME SO FOR EACH MESSAGE YOU SEND ME. I get a lot of mail, and there's no way I can remember who does and who doesn't mind his address being posted. Also note that FrontPage is brain-dead when it comes to parsing email addresses. It converts the address to a link, but it doesn't know enough to leave the initial square bracket out. As a result, what appear to be real addresses on this page are actually bad addresses, because they all start with a square bracket. That defeats at least one of the email address grabbers that has parsed my site. I can't guarantee that it'll defeat all of them, but so far it appears to work.

Second point. I get a *lot* of mail, and I spend a lot of time processing it that I don't really have to spare. If you can possibly format messages you send me as either HTML or Rich Text, I'd appreciate it. On plain text messages, I have to go through manually and remove the line breaks. That takes time I don't have. If your mailer won't let you do this, please don't hesitate to send me plain text messages. But if you have the option to send as HTML or Rich Text, please use it for messages you send me.

This from Paul S R Chisholm []:

You're right about (not .com); I'm adding sites from cookies on two systems, and botched the suffix.

I've also seen at least one system ( where, based on the name of the cookie it was trying to send me, the foo system appears to really be associated with one of the "cookie mobsters" and not with the site. (I ought to take it back out of my list and look at the cookie again.)

A request: For both this and the previous message, you're certainly welcome to post what I send on your Web site; but could you please list my e-mail address as (which is spam filtered) instead of this address (which isn't)? --PSRC

P.S.: Your Reply-To: doesn't have your name, only your address; so your name normally gets dropped on replies.

Your actual address isn't really posted, although it appears to be. If you click on the link, you'll find that your mail application fills in a To: of your actual address preceded by a square bracket. At first, I thought that perhaps the email address grabbers would be smart enough to filter that bracket out, but apparently they aren't. I say that because one of the address suckers parsed my site, and I subsequently got mail addressed to "[" The only reason I received it is that all mail sent to * ends up being dropped in my general delivery box. But I'll use your preferred address anyway.

As far as the return address, that's a long story that has to do with my incredibly complex mail handling. To make a long story short, one thing I do chokes on a reply-address that contains anything other than a simple Internet email address. So I compromised by using the long form as From: and the short form as Reply-To:

* * * * *

This from Chuck Waggoner []: 

I'm quite interested in how you turned off the read receipts that Outlook generates. Optimally, I'd like to be selective in who gets read receipts when requested, or--barring that--be able to kill them all. I've never found any info on this, however.

Well, first you have to be using OL2000. OL98 and earlier don't give you the choice. If someone requests a return-receipt, they send it. If you're running OL2K, go to Tools -- Options. Click the Email Options button. Click the Tracking Options button. Look at the bottom of the dialog, and you'll find option buttons. If you're running in Corporate/Workgroup mode, you have only two choices: Always send a receipt or Never send a receipt. If you're running in Internet Mail mode, you have a third button which, as I recall, causes OL to prompt you each time you receive a message that requests a return receipt.

* * * * *

Another from Chuck Waggoner []: 

I'm enjoying this discussion of PBS. 'High brow' programming has been tried by 2 significant players already--CBS Cable and Bravo. The first is no longer extant, and the second has degenerated to mostly re-runs of 2 star movies.

You may be entirely right about completely unbundling services. We pay about $40/mo just to have basic cable access, and my wife and I are fully aware that the few programs we watch, make the per-program cost pretty darned expensive! Certainly I am with you, and would pay to access BBC directly, but remember all of its good programming is a result of government funding--it's not a commercial enterprise. But I don't think that complete unbundling has a snowball's chance in our lifetime.

Therefore, we are left with reality: what to do with PBS. And there is no doubt in my mind that very few of what good programs it does produce would find their way into a venue that would attract the audiences they now enjoy. It's been my long-term observation that niche markets for quality seldom survive that mass market train speeding towards the lowest common denominator.

--Chuck Waggoner [waggoner at gis dot net]

But holding up Bravo as an example doesn't prove that for-pay "high-brow" programming can't succeed. It proves only that Bravo didn't do a very good job of implementing it. It seems to me that where they failed was not in content, which I understand was pretty good initially, but in access. Our cable system never picked up Bravo, and several other people I've spoken with said the same. All of us would have been more than happy to pay for Bravo, but we never had the chance.

As far as unbundling, I'm not as pessimistic as you are. Granted, there's a large array of strong forces that are trying to prevent bundling, including cable and on-air networks, content producers, advertisers, and just about anyone else you can think of except the consumers--the ones who actually pay the freight.

I think there are two technologies that will prove to be the death of bundling. First is the proliferation of always-on high-speed Internet connections. Second is IPv6. These two provide the infrastructure needed to support content-on-demand, and we're beginning to see the first small steps in that direction. As IPv6 is rolled out and ADSL becomes commonplace, we'll see a lot more of it. At first, of course, content-on-demand will be used in a traditional PPV manner, for $5 movies and $50 boxing extravaganzas. But content providers will soon recognize that they have a delivery and billing mechanism in place that can be used to provide high-volume, low-margin programming that will generate much higher overall profits than the low-volume high-margin stuff. They'll be able to provide Nature or Masterpiece on demand for 50 cents per view or whatever, and make more money doing it than they make on $5 movies or $50 boxing events.

The only remaining problem is delivery. Getting content to households likely to buy it won't be the problem. The problem will be getting the content from the ADSL demarc and up onto the TV screen. But things are developing in that direction as well, with writable DVD and the Castlewood ORB. In case you're not familiar with the latter, it's a $150 drive that uses $30 2.6 GB removable cartridges. And Castlewood has already done deals with consumer products companies like Sanyo, who will be incorporating the ORB into their new VCR products. The delivery problem will be worked out one way or another. Eventually, of course, you'll have a TV set that has a Fast Ethernet jack and understands IP directly. Once that happens, look for traditional networks to go away completely. My guess on timeframe? Less than five years until content-on-demand via IP starts to become a factor. Less than ten years before it's ubiquitous.

* * * * *

This from Edmund C. Hack []: 

The BBC now has a cable channel - "BBC America". It shows a mix of programming from the BBC, including sitcoms, interview shows, dramas, etc. They even do a newscast several times a day, with excellent coverage of news in the parts of the world that US news organizations ignore (i.e. all of Africa, S. America, Asia outside of Japan and China, Australia). They even keep the charming habit of having shows that start at 14 after the hour and are 28 minutes long.

As you said, PBS is in a bind. Most of the shows they get from outside their stations - things like Sesame Street, Barney, Teletubbies, BBC stuff all have cable competitors that would snap them up in a nanosecond. The "moaning for money" that they do has become so frequent an annoying that we watch little PBS anymore, especially since we bought a mini-dish. 

As for cable unbundling, I doubt that you'll see too much of it anytime soon. There are all kinds of interlocking relationships among the cable content providers and the deliverers (i.e. Time-Warner will always have CNN, TBS, TNT, etc since they own them) that give them an incentive to bundle things. Only the newest, most advanced cable systems are capable of such a pricing model, as there are still big cable systems that use passive filters in your feed to cut off the channels you don't subscribe to. It may well come, but I'd expect it to take a while.

Edmund Hack \ "The great prince issues commands, \ Founds states, vests families with fiefs.
extra l in email \ Inferior people should not be employed."-regnaD kciN

I'm not surprised that BBC is available to cable providers. Neither am I surprised that my cable system doesn't offer it. In fact, the channels that cable systems choose to make available are just another form of bundling. "Have it our way," in other words.

As far as cable unbundling, you may well be right. But there are alternatives to cable, and market forces may well compel cable companies to go along or be left behind. Both satellite technology and high-speed, always-on IP connections have the potential to replace cable TV. And I think it's a mistake to regard the current content providers as having a lock on content. By and large, they package and distribute content, but actually produce little or none of it themselves. That's true even for commercial on-air networks, which buy their shows from independent production companies.

I think what technology in general and the Internet in particular are going to accomplish is the death of middlemen, distributors, and packagers. We see that happening now with music. The big record companies are dead. They just don't realize it yet. Their sole reason for existence has been that they control the distribution channels. In the past, it was impossible for content providers to supply content directly to users. Record companies found a very profitable position in the middle between the creators and consumers of music. That niche is rapidly becoming obsolete. The same thing will happen to publishers, although it will take longer than it will for record companies. And the same thing will happen to video entertainment, although it will take longer still. But it will happen.

* * * * *

This followup from Chuck Waggoner []: 

You're right that the failure of CBS Cable and Bravo doesn't prove high quality can't succeed, but it sure gives others who might try some pause for reflection. And right now there's nobody stepping up to the plate to try again. Personally, I don't think the demise of PBS alone, would make successors more anxious to try, either. A few programs like Lehrer News, Wall Street Week, Mystery, and Masterpiece Theatre would find quick homes among A&E, Discovery, and the like. But I don't think anyone would step in to replace the high quality mission that PBS undertook (and which I agree they don't fulfill as well today as in years past). 

It also seems to me that the consumer's cost of equipment for implementing IP delivery via ADSL must be low for it to catch on quickly in a sustainable way--total user investment below today's price of a good television set. That alternative would be very attractive to a lot of people, including me; but my guess is that we are well beyond a decade away from such an outcome, even if the 'techies' jumped on board right away. What's going on in the music industry regarding MP3 might give some clues, however. Court battles over rights and royalties will probably delay things even longer.

By the way, our commercial classical music station here in Boston (which is ranked as the most-listened-to classical station in the country) plays their entire music library (and commercials) from hard drive, and has been doing so for several years now. The sound cards are proprietary to a radio station automation equipment company in Dallas, but I've been told the content is stored in MP3 format. It's programmed and played via a touch-screen. I can't tell the difference from CD.

--Chuck Waggoner [waggoner at gis dot net]

Well, you may be right, but if the recent history of technology proves anything, we may be seeing this kind of technology a lot sooner than you think. Consider that when I first got connected to the Internet ten years ago, few people even knew what the Internet was. Five years ago, the Web was in its infancy. Most people who did anything on-line did so via bulletin boards and on-line services. A lot can happen in five years, and an incredible amount can happen in ten. 

As far as MP3, I can tell the difference between CD audio and 128 Kb/s MP3, but I can't tell the difference with 256 Kb/s MP3. I'm sure there is a difference, but I can't tell. At 256 Kb/s, I can fit about 5 CDs per GB. I'll probably be doing that when I build my Audio/Video server sometime in the coming months.

* * * * *

This followup from Daniel Seto []:  

"The logical absurdity to which I referred is your position that each of us can obtain more services than we have paid for collectively."

Actually, what I've been saying is that by pooling resources, it is possible, through economy of scale, to get more as a group, than you can as an individual. This is fact and is not absurd (I would appreciate your refraining from ad hominem attacks).

"As far as the cost of arbitration, anyone can prove anything by choosing his sources and massaging the data. If arbitration were indeed as ineffective and inefficient as you maintain, why are nearly all companies now including contract terms that require arbitration as a first recourse?"

Ask them, not me. It is a fact that most businesses fail. And of those that fail, most fail due to what is described as bad management. But do not assume that just because something does not seem logical to you that it is therefore specious. The facts are the facts and to say that because some (or even most, if you are right) businesses resort to voluntary or mandatory arbitration, ipso facto, they must know something that the research does not find does not necessarily make it so.

"And as far as dinosaurs, don't forget that they survived and thrived for many millions of years, a record that mammals have come nowhere near attaining."

I absolutely agree with your point, but I was not referring mammals vs. dinosaurs. I was referring to the adaptive vs. the non-adaptive (as an allegorical reference to the "strong" commercial TV programs vs. the "weak" PBS programs). It comes back to - Is what is popular always good for you (physically, mentally, and spirituallly)? Is popularity the sole measure of what we choose?

Having said all of the above, it comes down to do you want a channel which exposes people to independent, differing views (whether you agree with them or not) from what is usually seen on commercial TV? And if so, do you think it can remain independent if it were funded the same way as commercial TV? Personally, I think government should not do anything private enterprise can do better. However, I have not seen commercial TV do what PBS is doing. When and if commerical TV should ever reach that sustained, on-going level of quality that PBS has, then there would not be a need for PBS. Until then, I'll keep sending in my check every year.

Thanks for letting me express my views on your site.

Well, we obviously differ in what we consider an "ad hominem" attack to be. I consider ad hominem to be an attack on a person himself as opposed to one on that person's arguments. If you took anything I said as an attack on you personally, I apologize. It was not so intended.

Pooling resources in no way increases the total supply of those resources. The point I was making was that you seemed to be arguing that "I'm only paying part of the cost of the resources I consume because others are paying for part of it" was logically absurd when applied to the group as a whole. Pooling resources can indeed be beneficial, as with insurance, but doing that does not magically increase the average quantity of resources available to each person. With home insurance, for example, I may pay $1,000 per year. My expected average loss is less than $1,000 per year. If it wasn't, the insurance company would lose money and increase their prices. But I'm willing to pay more than my expected average loss in exchange for limiting my maximum loss.

And, yes, I do want a channel (or channels) that provides programming that I enjoy. I simply believe that the best way to get that programming is via a market mechanism. Consider classical music, which I prefer. Classical music CDs are more expensive than mainstream rock and pop CDs. But because classical CDs are supplied via a market mechanism, I can select among a huge variety of selections. If the market wasn't operating here, if classical music were delivered via a PBS-like subsidized mechanism, I'd have a very limited number of choices. I much prefer the free market, and paying for what I want. That way, at least I can get what I want. That's not true in a subsidized environment. TANSTAAFL.

* * * * *

This from Robert Rudzki []: 

I enjoyed your exchange with Dan Seto about PBS and the role of taxes and how we fit as a social community.

The thing I liked about German TV and the Beeb as well was that programs do not have to end on the half or full hour, and in German TV the ads ran as a whole group for 15 minutes between programs with little cartoon figures that transitioned you from ad to ad, along with public service announcements. We got Dutch TV as well since we were so close to Zuid Limburg, a southern state of The Netherlands.

The Dutch run all foreign programming in the original language, they almost all speak English fluently even in backward provinces as opposed to the Germans who dub everything into 'The Master Language'. The Dutch TV also shows some adult programming that would be considered a 'hard NC-17" here or even "XXX", the American mothers were always hollering about some of the things they caught the 12 year olds watching... =8^-)

Many Americans call the whole country "Holland" but that is only one of 11 states and a northern one at that. Heh, there was a Guide Michelin 2-star restaurant [The Queen Juliana] in Valkenberg, we stopped one Saturday in 1986 to have lunch but the menu posted in the display case showed prices that would result in a $150 lunch for 2 people being conservative and not even opening the wine list. So we moseyed on and ate at a local's place for $15 equivalent. And no, the food was not ten times worse.

As far as unbundling my total 'package' of Government services that I pay my steep taxes for, I am all for it! Dump the FBI, BATF, DOE, HUD, HEW, most of the DOD, NASA, DEA, etc. from my package, I have no use for those agencies and consider them actively harmful to my civil rights and bank account.

You can dump the local police from my tax trough as well, the Supreme Rulers AKA The Supreme Court have already issued at least 7 major decisions saying the police have no legal duty to protect the public at large and cannot be held accountable by the public for any omissions or failure to 'protect and serve'. Guess we'll have to paint over the 'Protect' part of 'To Protect and Serve' on LAPD black and whites... 

See Dr. Pournelle's recent experience with his stolen cell phone to see how concerned the police are with crime against the public. Here in my city they won't even come in person to investigate a burglary, you can phone the report in and they toss it in the trash when you hang up. They said it is a waste of our time since we'll probably never catch the guy anyway and no we can't fingerprint the crime scene and put it in the computer it's too expensive "just" for a burglary...

My page is down temporarily, I have it all screwed up and I will never use the PBI free 'user tools' so generously provided by PacBell again! Time to download CuteFTP again... 

Robert Rudzki

Exactly. A basic rule of government is that taxes are not raised for the benefit of the taxed. Anyone who is a member of the middle class or higher, a group that almost certainly includes most of my readers, is paying much more in taxes than he receives in benefits. Taxes have two primary purposes. The one of lesser importance is to re-distribute wealth from the better-off to the worse-off, a purpose I consider no different from armed robbery. The really important one, though, is to support do-nothing government employees, who would in a free market be unemployed and unemployable. Note that I am not saying that all government employees fall into this group. But most of them do.

* * * * *

This from Frank A. Love []: 

"In effect, you are arguing that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, or that we are all getting more than we are paying for. "

Well, yes, I would argue that the whole IS more than the sum of it's parts. 

That's what built the pyramids, built the Great Wall of China and sent people to the moon. It is a demonstrated fact that groups of people can accomplish astonishing things, good and bad, given the right motivation. 

Despite the tendency of our literature to emphasize the role of the individual, it is the community, people working together for a common goal, that accomplishes the most. It's true that individuals sometimes do great things, but they are notable for their rarity. Most of the Great Men of History were leaders of men. Alexander the great and Attila the Hun are remembered because they were able to organise and motivate armies, not because they were stellar examples of the human race.

It is the ability of humans to communicate with each other which enables us to cooperate and form communities. It is our ability to organize our collective efforts that separates us from the rest of the creatures on this planet. Thanks to our ability to share knowledge, no one person has to know everything, and with the advent of the internet it is now possible to form communities of people who have never met and never will meet. What new forms of community will this enable, and what new things will humanity accomplish with these new types of communities?

Think about it: Human history and culture is basically the story of learning how to form larger and larger communities and better organising the efforts of the people in the community. From family group to tribe, from tribe to village, from village to city, from city to nation. Each progression in size was enabled by new technologies. Agriculture for making more food or working stone to create shelter and weapons or building roads for communicating over longer distances (or signal flags for communicating faster over shorter distances).

Note that I make no claims for this being an unalloyed good. Wars were local disputes until explosives, the internal combustion engine and radio enabled Germany to start World War II ... and the U.S. to win it. Organisation can kill millions of Jews, but it can also bring a proud nation to utter ruin.

It is my hope that the internet will enable the human race to organise across national boundaries. (Maybe it will be harder to bomb a nation that you have friends in who send you e-mail every day.) The great danger I see with the internet is that it allows the spread of hate and ignorance at least as fast as the spread of love and knowledge. 

There will always be people with axes to grind. 

So, yes Robert, the whole IS greater than the sum of it's parts and that is the source of my hopes and fears for the future.

Should PBS be publicly funded? I can only say that I would certainly miss it if it weren't there- about 80% of the TV I watch is on PBS. 

By the way, your use of the Chrysler bail-out is fallacious. No public money was spent to bail out Chrysler. That was a loan guarantee that congress passed, not a loan. If Chrysler had gone under, the government would have been liable for the amount guaranteed, but since they pulled through, the only public money that was spent was whatever it took to administer the bail-out. I'm sure some lawyers made money on the paperwork ; but I seriously doubt that made a dent in the U.S. budget. They were probably already on retainer anyway!

Frank A. Love

P.S. I love your site! As I wrote earlier, I may not agree with every thing you write .... but you do make me think. Thanks!

I was not arguing in general about the whole versus parts, but simply that that concept does not apply in a zero-sum game. Furthermore, everyone seems to be ignoring the fact that people can co-operate to achieve a shared goal without the government forcing them to do so. In fact, people who voluntarily choose to co-operate can achieve a great deal. Slaves can also be forced to co-operate, but the benefit is much less. Coerced co-operation is always much less effective and efficient, and coerced co-operation is exactly what we're talking about here.

As far as the Chrysler bail-out, either you missed my point or I didn't make it clearly. I wasn't suggesting that government funds were used to bail out Chrysler. My point was that the government subsidized Chrysler by guaranteeing the loans made to them. The result was that Chrysler, which was not credit-worthy, was granted huge loans at low rates. That dried up the capital market, and credit-worth companies and individuals were unable to obtain loans, or were forced to pay much higher rates for them. The net result was that for every job saved at Chrysler, about two were lost elsewhere in the economy. That is the inevitable result of any subsidy. The favored group benefits greatly, but everyone else suffers. The net result is that the suffering always exceeds the benefit. But those subsidized are vocal and form a constituency. The damage is usually spread over a very large group of people, which means it isn't worth their while to complain about it. But that doesn't change the fact that the damage exceeds the benefit.





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Thursday, 12 August 1999

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I've finally come up with a reasonable justification for the appearance of my work area. It looks like a high-tech garbage dump. In the past, I've showed Barbara the pictures that Pournelle has posted of Chaos Manor, which looks indistinguishable from my place. Same thing with Tom's Hardware. Anand moved to a new lab in June, and just got around to putting up photos of his new lab yesterday. It looks just like Jerry's place, Tom's place, and my place.

I explained to Barbara that there is a common mechanism operating here. All of us are doing more or less the same thing, and all of us are extremely task-focused. When we're building a system, our sole goal is to get the system built and running. There's a lot of stuff associated with that, and all we're interested in is finding the Easter Egg we need at the moment we need it. So, if that egg happens to be a driver CD, we locate that CD and toss the box it came in over our shoulder, balance it on top of the monitor, or whatever. The result is the remarkable similarity in appearance of any working PC hardware lab.

Barbara doesn't buy it, although she admitted that it was a very good try. But at least Barbara doesn't clean up for me. Roberta periodically cleans up Chaos Manor for Jerry. She (literally) rolls a dumpster under the balcony that adjoins the Chaos Manor Great Hall, brings out great armfuls of stuff and shouts "bombs away" as she drops it into the dumpster. I can just imagine it, "Wait! Wait, Roberta! That's a case of Pentium III/700 processors!" Oops. Forget I said that...

* * * * *

I'm about through building Barbara's new system and installing software on it. Yesterday I decided to run a defrag as a final step. I ran Diskeeper Lite and it told me that the disk was badly fragmented. It wouldn't fix the fragmentation, though. I thought that was odd, but I had Norton Utilities for NT installed, so I ran Norton Speed Disk. Same thing. It chunked away forever, but did little or nothing to defrag the disk. I downloaded the full Diskeeper 4.1 and ran it. No joy. I then ran it in boot-time defrag mode. That cleared up some of the directory fragmentation, but still left the disk badly fragmented. I then tried running Vopt. Usually Vopt runs very quickly (not least because it's set to run as a High priority process), but it took nearly an hour this time. When Vopt finished, the disk was still badly fragmented.

At that point, I emailed my contact at Diskeeper. They said they'd never heard of such a thing, but sent back several suggested workarounds. As it happened, I figured out what the problem was by myself, although I still don't understand it. All of the defraggers were refusing to work on a bunch of specific files. These are simple text data files (my web site stats, and those for Jerry's site). I download them each day and run a program called Analog to process the raw data into a web site access report. The files are downloaded as compressed .gz files and then unzipped. In unzipped form, they are in the 5 MB+ size range. They are all named in the form www.990811 (which I noticed as I typed that file name in my message to Diskeeper, Windows regards as a "special" file name, so perhaps that's the problem).

When I did yet another defrag with Diskeeper, I switched to Text View. There were several of these files on the disk (one for each day of August so far) and none of them were defragged. One, for example, had 697 fragments. None of these files were open at the time, so I was forced to conclude that there's something about the name "www" or the 6 digit extension that defraggers don't like.

I moved all of those files to a network volume and started the defrag again. Text mode showed the same files, with the same fragmentation, but this time in the Recycle bin. I aborted the defrag, emptied the recycle bin, and restarted it This time, the disk defragged without any problem. I then moved those files back to the volume in question and ran another defrag. Apparently they were copied contiguously, because there was no problem on this defrag pass either. I did notice, however, when I ran Vopt that it was listing many files as "unmovable". I suspect that these files were the unmovable ones, but I don't know for sure.

There were no permissions problems at any point. I was logged on as a user with full Admin privs, and nothing was set to No Access for admins.

So it appears that perhaps Windows treats any file named "www" as a special case...

* * * * *

This from Joshua D. Boyd []: 

There is no reason that it has to be a decade away. Computers being sold for under $500 are good enough to watch TV on, provided they are hooked up to a large monitor (or TV). While $500 is high for just watching TV, it is low enough that many people would still do it. Any if there is demand, you can bet somebody would come up with a cheaper solution (the iToaster costs $199, and it is powerful enough, it just needs the software, which also shouldn't be too difficult because it runs a modified BeOS).

Current quality of video over the internet is poor. But there is no good reason for that either. More and more areas have DSL or cable (unfortunately, I'm not in one of those areas), and if people were to demand it loudly, most areas could be could be covered in under a year or two. And the backbones are also good enough to support TV signals running all over the place, if only more routers were configured to support IP multicast (which is rather old).

In short, there is no reason that video over the internet couldn't become a commercial reality in short order. The only problem (and this always seems to be the nearly insurmountable one), is that companies like to stall over doing anything new or different, to the point that they all but bribe politicians (well campaign contributions are just a picky point or two away from bribes) to make it harder for the more daring companies. After all, just look at HDTV.

As far as MP3s go, it depends on the speakers whether or not I can hear the difference between 128kb mp3 and CDs. On my home computer, I can very clearly hear the difference. My friends all thought I was crazy for wasting disk space encoding my CDs into 256kb mp3s. Then one of them installed the new Microsoft USB speakers (he works at MS and gets good discounts on MS hardware, and all MS software for free), and now he feels the same way I do.

To my understanding, radio stations have been using MP3 for years as a way of distributing programming over ISDN. It doesn't surprise me that some stations are switching over to storing everything in MP3. Then there are some stations that still use records. People don't believe me when I say vinyl is making a come back, but it is. Right now I'm listening to a station over the internet in the UK called interface, and they exclusively use vinyl, and it isn't like they only play old music either. All their music is very cutting edge.


Joshua Boyd

The reason I say that I think IP-delivered content-on-demand is five to ten years away has nothing to do with technical issues, except that ubiquitous high-speed always-on connections will be needed, as will IPv6. As you say, it is technically feasible now to deliver content-on-demand via IP. Only people like us will watch stuff on a computer monitor, though. The five to ten year lag I project is the period that will elapse as the infrastructure comes into place. And by that, I don't simply mean the technical infrastructure. Businesses don't turn on a dime, and getting licensing, standards, etc. all lined up will require some time. Fortunately, the major standard, IPv6, is already in place. The major lack at this point is a universal standard for encryption and billing. Content providers won't willingly provide their content for on-demand use until such standards are implemented.

As for video quality when delivered by IP, there are a couple of issues here. First, people who watch IP-delivered video today are generally doing so in real-time rather than caching it to disk and watching it from a local source. The current IP implementation is stochastic and has a great deal of latency, making it inappropriate for an inherently deterministic application like read-time video. IPv6 addresses that problem with QoS (quality of service) and other elements. So, with IPv6, you will indeed be able to watch video in real-time (assuming that you have a fast enough connection and are willing to pay for the premium real-time delivery of that content).

I recognize that some audiophiles maintain that vinyl provides a "warmer" experience than CD-DA, but I've never been able to tell the difference, even on a set of $30,000 studio monitors. I'm willing to concede that I have a tin ear, however. I do know that I can't tell the difference between CD-DA and 256 Kb/s MP3 on a decent set of speakers and with classical music, which is considerably less forgiving than stuff like rock. At 128 Kb/s, I can definitely tell the difference, particularly in highs, which seem muddied.

* * * * *

This from Joshua D. Boyd []: 

I don't know about you, but I wasn't planning on watching anything on a computer monitor. I was planning on watching it on a large screen TV or projection unit. OK, I was really planning on watching stuff on a 17" monitor as soon as I scraped together the money for a DVD player and TV card. But I wouldn't have to. If I felt like fitting a large screen TV in my room, I could hook my computer up to. Most non generic video cards these days seem to have TV out jacks on them. And in fact, I do sometimes watch stuff from the net on the projection unit at school. I've also been known to watch rented video tapes on the side of a barn using a much larger borrowed projector.

As far as licensing goes, to get traditional stuff on the net is going to take a long time. However, there is currently stuff out there. There are several animation series that put out something like a new 5-10 minute episode weekly. Some sites use flash, some use VRML. There is one site that releases a new cartoon in the 5-10 minute range daily. They currently use a proprietary 3D format (They used to use VRML, I don't know why they switched). Another web site release short films over the net.

If these sites could figure out a way to make real money off their efforts (the daily site is essentially to advertise the capabilities of a certain animation package, and the rest are either hobbies, ads, or business ventures that aren't yet profitable), then I'm sure we would see much more. However, the reality is that not enough people are willing to pay per episode to watch stuff. And even if the quality were to suddenly jump to that of normal TV, people still would most likely be unwilling to pay per episode. I don't yet know of any streaming encrypted video systems, but that shouldn't really matter. What ever encryption system they come up with, people are either going to refuse to use it, or it is going to quickly be broken soon. Actually, anything would be broken quickly. That is just a fact of life. Still, media companies are going to spend a long time trying to insist on security. And hopefully while they are doing that, people who actually care about quality products and consumers will replace the traditional companies.

I think that we will most likely see independent people hitting the net first in increasing quantities and quality, long before traditional media gets in on the act. However, the technology like IP multicast (which will work over IPv4, it doesn't require IPv6) most likely wont arrive until the traditional media starts arriving.

There is latency, but it can be dealt with in the same way latency in internet audio is dealt with. We don't really need QoS to make things work. I suspect that QoS is going to end up being bad for consumers anyway, or it isn't going to work. Just look at what's happened when large scale layouts of ATM were attempted, like at MCI. The proper way to deal with latency is to just buffer some portion of the feed. Real Audio buffers about 16k. For video, that would probably need to be a couple of megs.

I too can't tell the difference between 256k mp3 and CD-DA. If I could, I'd use an even lower compression ratio. The revival of vinyl is do to several things. One item is that it is cheaper for low runs. Given the current popularity of all things independent, small runs become more in demand. The second issue is that vinyl can be manipulated in ways that CDs can't (well, there are some bleeding edge products, but they are new, expensive, and unproven). Thus DJs tend to like vinyl. That is why Interface uses vinyl. I know several people who get custom records made. The put together a CD of riffs, breaks, etc, on their computers, burn it to CD-R, and send the CD to turned into one off vinyl. These people are more extreme than normal DJs. The last reason for vinyl's resurging popularity is that many people think it provides a warmer sound. I currently haven't yet decided whether or not this is true. I suspect that it might be, but I don't think most people can tell. I think vinyl is too much of a hassle to use much. Thus I stick to CDs and mp3. I don't even have a tape player in my room. I do like older audio gear. I'm not one of those crazy freaks that has a tube based DAC for my CD player, plugged into a tube amp. My main amplifier is a solid state 1970s quadraphonic thing. I rather attached to it. One of these days I'm going to do some rewiring of how some of the controls, inputs, and outputs are set up to make the thing more surround sound friendly, and probably also to add some more inputs. It also has an annoying problem with picking up interference from the blender, and when people turn fluorescent lights on  or off in the house. I'm not enough of an audio wiz to figure that one out though.


Joshua Boyd

* * * * *

This from Paul S R Chisholm []: 

On your site, you wrote:

>I'm sorry to say that the experiment with using IE5 Restricted Sites didn't work out, so I'm back to disallowing everything by default, and allowing free access only to sites I specify.

The Restricted Sites tactic isn't sufficient, but it's helpful. I use it to complement "Prompt before accepting cookies", the custom setting I have for the Internet zone. I end up getting a lot of prompts ("eternal vigilance is the price..."); having the worst offenders in the Restricted Sites zone cuts down on that.

Like you, I won't lightly accept cookies by default. At the moment, I only do that in Trusted Sites: Yahoo,, and my employer's domains.

(This is plain text, but not wrapped; hope that helps.) --PSRC

Yes, I can see what you mean. But enough sites use harmless cookies that it'd drive me nuts to leave IE set to prompt for cookies. And, yes, the plain text unwrapped helps a great deal. In fact, it's better than HTML. I can just do a Select All on a message, copy, and then paste it directly in here with no massaging.

* * * * *

This from Bo Leuf []: 

Chuck Waggoner wrote on your page:

"...remember all of [the BBC's] good programming is a result of government funding..."

Mmm, like many things, this is not entirely true, at least not in the way that such a statement implies. The European model was to be sure until recently that the state in each country had monopoly on (and funded by indirect taxes and direct fees, often both at the same time) all the basic utilities and services. This meant that the state directly funded TV programming, and the quality of most of this was generally held to be abysmal, even by a population that had nothing to compare it with -- lengthy, boring, and with a casual disregard for what the viewers might actually want. (State employees have other agendas than "producing", and are often held to a particular dictated programming model.)

The BBC was in interesting oddity in this connection, for it took the state-run disregard for budgetary and other constraints and mutated this into a long tradition of excellent news, independent views, documentary, and science programming, and threw in a broad spectra of "Arts" related material (such as theater and TV drama).

Then came deregulation, in varying ways and varying degrees. For TV for example, independent commercial broadcasters were allowed on the market. The state-run media continued much as before, but were now under pressure from two directions: viewers had a choice, so programming had to pay more attention to what the viewers wanted, and production people had a choice since they could get jobs with the commercial broadcasters.

In actual fact, many good TV producers had already before then started to spin off into freelance production companies, albeit initially selling most or all of their material to the state monopoly. Already this partial privatization makes a difference, because many of these freelances were now in a position to sell to the highest bidder, or make material for the international (commercial, then = US) market. Not a few made large sums in advertising, often parodying the "state-run" paradigm in their ads (a few Swedish producers come to mind -- though American viewers who saw them will probably have associated more to Soviet-style parody).

Anyway, to get back to the BBC (and many other state/public- funded broadcasters), they are often now also in part commercially funded. I was mildly shocked when BBC International (the news channel) started with some (sober business-style) advertising every 15 minutes, but even more so when Scientology bought air time.

In any case, using BBC as an example of what public funding can get you is interesting, but in no way predictive. It must be pointed out that the BBC is even in Europe a unique institution and hardly representative of publicly funded media in general. More interesting would be to try and analyse why the BBC did not go the way of the other monolithic state TV broadcasters in Europe. Then again, much of what you see in England has never gone the way corresponding things have gone in the rest of Europe...

/ Bo


"Bo Leuf" <>
Leuf Network,

Interesting points. Thanks.

* * * * *

This from Robert Rudzki []: 

I agree with you the bailout it was wrong, they should have pruned off Chrysler Defense which was the only part that made money and let vultures pick off the rest. GM and Ford and Rambler would have bought most of the remaining plants closed the really old ones and probably hired most of the assembly line guys

And not only did they get a low rate huge pile of money the Government gave them tons of sweet heart deals and contracts to supply K cars to the military which were hated by both Dutch local mechanics and US Army guys in the motor pool since they were so poorly made and constantly broke down. Heh, they had one where the engine fell out at the 700 miles! And engines had to be routinely overhauled at the 35,000 km point. Notice how few of those you see on the road anymore? They are rarer than Yugos for some reason.

The Army in Europe had long since used local purchase for vehicles figuring warranty service was easier to have done locally and local mechanics working for Army motor pools were likely to be more familiar with Volkswagens made for European markets than some tinbox K car, buuuut nooooo! We had to bail out Lee Iacocca since Chrysler was too big to fail... 

I seem to remember some big New York banks that got really burned by '70's Mexican loans that never got repaid, and the Feds said they were too big to fail as well, so the taxpayer took it in the shorts one more time. You have to admire people who invest billions in Mexico and China, places where they can [and do] change the rules overnight and keep the entire jackpot, ever hear of some outsider suing successfully in Mexican or Chinese civil court?

Robert Rudzki


* * * * *

This from Robert Rudzki []: 

Dr. Pournelle found his link 'problem' when I pointed it out and actually thanked me. Heh, I guess he has not seen my new and improved home page... =8^-)

That shot of Duncan getting real hinckey about Finn shoving his face into his snout was priceless, my mother has this theory that if a dog shows the whites of his eyes for any reason he is not to be trusted ever again, but many of the dogs my father owned did just that, so what can you do about parental advice?

Since the main spousal unit Taylor is now bringing home a much larger paycheck, [and it was big before] I am seriously thinking of a digital camera and I will be posting cute pictures of certain cats I like... 

Dr. Pournelle's HTML code looks really dirty, unfocused and scattered in NotePad and FrontPage Express, could you just convince him to let you maintain his site?

Robert Rudzki

I'm glad you found that reference in Jerry's site. I'm sure he appreciates it.

As far as Duncan, he's actually a very gentle dog. He barks ferociously at the mail, UPS, and similar trucks, but even that's just a threat display. Barbara had him out in the front yard yesterday when the mail truck turned onto our block. He went tearing over to the mail truck. Barbara knew he wouldn't bite, but was afraid he would get maced. Fortunately, our mail man has dogs of his own, and refrained from macing down Duncan. Duncan ran over to the truck with his whole back end wagging as he ran and stood up with his front feet on the floor of the truck and licked the guy's hand. Then Barbara got him back in the house. He waited as usual for the mail man. When he showed up, Duncan started barking insanely as usual.

The only time Duncan has actually used his fangs was a few months ago when Barbara was walking him. He stuck his head into a storm drain and didn't want to go any further. Barbara walks him on a 10 metre leash, and was brought up short when she came to the end of the slack. Moving Duncan when he wants to stay put isn't easy. Barbara turned around and went back just in time to see the head of a sewer monster come shooting out of the storm drain. 

There was a brief furball with lots of snarling, and Duncan came away with his whole snout covered in blood. Barbara came running back to the house with Duncan, shouting for me. As it turned out, it was all the other guy's blood. We took Duncan to the vet to get looked at and to get a rabies booster just in case. We called animal control to tell them there was a vicious fangy thing in that storm drain (which is near an area where kids play), but they never even showed up. We still don't know what it was. Probably either a raccoon or a very large cat.

If you buy a digital camera, I can recommend the Olympus D-400 Zoom highly. They also make a less expensive model (the D-340R?) that has many of the capabilities of the D-400Z, although I think it has a lesser lens and comes with a smaller SmartMedia card. Get the optional Olympus rechargeable batteries in any case.

As far as Jerry's HTML code, it's probably not much different from mine. We both use the same products to maintain our sites, and neither of us does any hand coding.





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Friday, 13 August 1999

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I've used and recommended APC UPSs for more than a decade now, and have had little reason to look elsewhere. But part of my job is keeping tabs on competing products, so when I heard about a new line of UPSs from Smart Power Systems (IEPS Electronics), I decided to request an eval unit. It arrived late yesterday afternoon. It's a SineSmart 2000, a line-interactive, true sine-wave 2 KVA UPS. My initial impressions are that this is a very nice unit. It appears to be well-designed and well-built, although I haven't taken it apart yet. After it charges, I plan to move it to my test bench, where it will power numerous testbed systems.

I know I'm getting older, and here's one sign. When I was lugging the SineSmart 2000 UPS over to where I planned to give it its initial charge, I told Barbara, "this thing must weigh 100 pounds." I later checked the specs, and found that it weighed only 74 pounds. There was a time when I could have carried one of those under each arm without breaking a sweat. Age makes wimps of us all.

* * * * *

Barbara's new machine, theodore, is finally finished and moved into her office. Here's a picture of Theodore sitting on top of theodore.

theodore.jpg (53294 bytes)

* * * * *

This from my friend David Silvis, MD []. David and I became best friends when we were about six, but we only see each other every ten years or so now. His address refers to the fact that he collects Huppmobiles (manufactured by the Hupp Motor Car Corporation, and also spelled Hupmobile). He keeps sending me jokes, so I figured I should post at least one of them: 

Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson went on a camping trip. After a good meal and a bottle of wine they lay down for the night, and went to sleep. Some hours later, Holmes awoke and nudged his faithful friend.

"Watson, look up at the sky and tell me what you see."

Watson replied, "I see millions and millions of stars."

"What does that tell you?"

Watson pondered for a minute. "Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three. Theologically, I can see that God is all powerful and that we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. What does it tell you?"

Holmes was silent for a minute, then spoke. "Watson, you idiot. Someone has stolen our tent."

* * * * *

This from Chuck Waggoner [waggoner at gis dot net]:  

This is a good week of interesting comments.

It's strange how people's preferences differ. I've heard side-by-side comparisons of vinyl vs. CD in a professional audio setting, and to my tastes, there is really no comparison. CD is cleaner (much less distortion), has more depth (you can hear things that aren't even detectable on vinyl), and sounds live.

Having been around broadcasting for a long time, with a 'semi-professional' setup for audio at home, I've moved from vinyl to CD, and have never detected that vinyl sounds 'warmer'. It sounds fuzzier to me.

In my youth in the early '60's, I did have a 150 watt nominal, 300 watt peak, Bell monaural, dual tube push-pull output stage amplifier coupled with a University speaker system. I don't know if "warm" is the word, but that system produced sweeter sound than anything I've ever heard since, including all the recording studios I've been in. Those Bell amplifiers--made somewhere in Ohio, as I recall--were often used to power Altec-Lansing Voice of the Theater speaker systems in movie houses. Right after I bought mine, Bell came out with a stereo model, which was 2 of the mono amps in the same housing. I always wish I had gotten one, but alas, my teenage bank account was not the equal of it while I was interested in having one.

The volume control on my amp went from 0 to 10, and a setting of 2.5, feeding normal input voltages, would blow you out of the room. Absolutely no ear-detectable distortion, even at that level.

--Chuck Waggoner [waggoner at gis dot net]

I agree. I've never been able to understand people's preference for vinyl, but I'm no expert. Your comments reminded me of the audio setup I had back in the early 70's. The amplifier was, as I recall, 350 watts per channel. I think the manufacturer was Phase Linear. I ran it to home-built speakers that I'd salvaged from my girlfriend's dorm when they rebuilt the common area. I don't know what brand they were, but the woofers were 18" and had huge magnets on them, something like 30 pounds each. The free air resonance on the things was something like 6 Hz. Nowadays, I just have a normal JVC 100 watt/channel receiver and speakers the brand of which I forget.

* * * * *

This from Robert Rudzki []: 

Ok, American Motors, but I still think of them as Rambler, Nash Hudson-Hornet, Nash Kelvinator... Remember the '50's Metropolitan?

Our first new car was a 1959 Rambler station wagon with the optional spin-on oil filter and heater[!], a 199 ci inline six with 3 main bearings and 5.50 x 15" bias-ply tires. I was nine years old and can still remember the 'new car smell' of fresh slick vinyl bench seats that turned out to be nightmares in the sticky hot summers in Chicago...

Yes, you and Pournelle are similar in that you are both authors, both receive free equipment to review and have web sites but for me the similarity ends there. And if you do charge for viewing your site, I will subscribe and not complain because you are worth reading both for techie stuff and entertainment value, and I like your dog stories.

I have not read any of your books and only a couple of Pournelle's, my problem is that after RAH died and went to the big Tunnel In The Sky there is not much reason to read science fiction written after his death, he pretty much said it all. Any more reason than to see Westerns made after The Wild Bunch by Peckinpah, simply the greatest director this country has produced IMO.

I guess I have just read Byte and Pournelle's column one too many times over 20 years and something visceral in me cringes like hearing fingernails on a slate blackboard when I read his stuff. I know, I know, just don't read him and save yourself the aggro... I really can't put a finger on it, the man just plain chaps my ass. But what the hay, that's me, not you.

I have told search engines not to index my site, I really don't want to attract a whole lot of people who have decided I am a demon for making fun of Pournelle, nor do I want to be a magnet for unstable people who might decide on 'executive action' either against me or The Doctor, God knows there are enough of those in the news these last few months.

I am seriously thinking of making him just a link on my page and removing the obvious parodies, but he is so much fun to skewer... Anyway my site is in transition, we'll see.

Yes, he did thank me for finding the orphan link, I guess I have gotten better at reading HTML, it just leaped out at me when I looked at the HTML source code for his page after noticing his remark about cache.

It's a shame the Byte on-line archive does not go back to Day Zero that would be rich grist indeed for my mill, I can remember doing the old OJ Simpson lean-back-and-eye-roll-back-into-my-head once per month when I got my issue of Byte and started reading his column... Taylor, I would shout, you will not believe what that man did THIS time.

I showed her my home page and she said i don't think 'Schloss' corresponds to the French and English 'Manor' [She is fluent in German from a student exchange trip and our 5+ years there] so she got out the old Langenscheidts' and sure enough that was the first meaning from German to English! I just made a rough approximation, I was confident it would be a close match.

An old joke:

An American, a Brit, a German, a Frenchman and a Pole were all asked to write a one-page essay about the elephant.

The American wrote about how you could market and sell elephants door-to-door and make millions.

The Brit wrote about using elephants as a design elements in formal landscape architecture.

The Frenchman wrote on the elephant's role in the Chef de Range and Haute Cuisine.

The Pole's essay was entitled "The Elephant and The Polish Question"! 

PS: On OJ Simpson, do you remember watching the criminal trial verdict announcement on TV? The camera is focused on OJ, Kardashian, Shapiro and Johnnie Cochran, they are all anxious but when the verdict is not guilty, Kardashian and Shapiro looked like someone had just kicked them hard in the stomach, OJ and Johnnie are smiling nervously. The reason was that Kardashian and Shapiro got real hinckey about OJ's 'innocence' when they gave him that secret polygraph test early in the defense and he got a -27 score which is like major deception and lying on all 6 questions. They had denied ever giving him a polygraph until after the trial, I think Kardashian leaked it since he and Shapiro realized at the verdict they had worked to set a brutal double murderer scot free. Rosy Grier was ministering to OJ in the LA County Jail when OJ shouted I did it! during one session and a Sheriff's Deputy overhead it, so they spent thousands renovating the visiting room in the high-security area so this wouldn't happen again.

I may be the only person in America (and one of the few worldwide) who watched literally none of the OJ trial coverage. I did see his white Bronco on the news, but that was it. I did pick up some of the names and stuff by osmosis, but I couldn't even tell you which side Marcia somebody, Johnie Cochrane, Furman, etc. were on, or what a glove had to do with anything. Life is too short to waste time watching garbage like that.





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Saturday, 14 August 1999

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The morning newspaper tells me that the Cambridge, Massachusetts police department has agreed to alter their training. They had been teaching recruits that pepper spray was less effective against some ethnic groups. Their reasoning was truly bizarre. According to them, Hispanics supposedly eat spicy food, which supposedly renders them less subject to the effects of pepper spray. A spokesman for a Hispanic group summed up the situation well. He said that this would have been hilariously funny if it wasn't so inherently racist. The only thing I'm not sure about is the "racist" part. I was under the impression that people of Hispanic extraction were Caucasian. So where is the racism? At least the Cambridge PD has altered its training materials.

* * * * *

Now that I have a digital camera, I'm posting many more images than I used to. I've reorganized the Images page, and put up some images of my office that I shot yesterday. Barbara thinks it needs cleaned up. What do you think?

* * * * *

If you need a motherboard, now may be the time to get it. The Register posted an article this morning that says there will be a long-term severe shortage of Intel 440BX and 440ZX chipsets. Expect the price of motherboards to be on the rise.

* * * * *

This from David Yerka []: 

I think someone doesn't like your site. Or, actually, your site, Jerry Pournelle's, and any site who's address begins with

Earlier this week I suddenly found myself unable to connect to JP's site where I usually go first then move on to you (sorry, just habit, I guess). Well the site wouldn't come up but I figured the rabbits got him again so I moved on to your site but yours wouldn't come up either. I thought Pair might be down but when I hit them they popped right up. I then decided to check their "featured site" page. Any site with the above addressing wouldn't come up though other sites would.

Checking through another ISP (a client's connection/site I maintain) found you without problem.

Moving on to badgering my ISP resulted in the information that the link was with an organization,, and that the problem was with them and that they were "researching it?" That was a few days ago and apparently they are still researching it. I have this feeling that it will all turn out as censorship..."we were blocking a spammer/pornographer/someone with bad attitude and goofed up the address."

Strange, huh.

Yes, it sounds as though your ISP setup blocking by IP address on its border router and simply excluded too wide a range of IP addresses.

* * * * *

This from Werth, Timothy P []: 

I immediately thought of you when I read this. Don't know if it's true or not but it is amusing to read.



-----Original Message-----


An elderly lady did her shopping and upon return found four males in her car. She dropped her shopping bags and drew her handgun, proceeding to scream at them at the top of her voice that she knows how to use it and that she will if required: so get out of her car. The four men didn't wait around for a second invitation but got out and ran like mad, whereupon the lady proceeded to load her shopping bags into the back of the car and get into the driver's seat.

Small problem, her key wouldn't fit the ignition. Her car was identical and parked 4 or 5 spaces farther down. She loaded her bags into her car and drove to the police station. The sergeant to whom she told the story nearly tore himself in two with laughter and pointed to the other end of the counter, where four pale white males were reporting a carjacking by a mad elderly white woman; no charges were filed.

Hmm. Lucky she didn't shoot.





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Sunday, 15 August 1999

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Well, on the subject of whether I should clean up my office, the votes are in:

Readers - 27 nay, 0 aye
Barbara - 0 nay, 1 aye

And the ayes have it...

* * * * *

Herewith, a selection of the responses:

This from Neil Sherin []: 

Nope, keep your office as it is! I've tried to explain about your office and Anand's lab but all I get is the 'I don't care, I/we live here....'. Geez, surely we have one area of the house that doesn't have to look like a museum? Well, actually, I guess it is - a museum of cables, CD-R disks, floppy disks, drive rails....

I am back from University at the moment and mom is a teacher (on summer vacation). The problem is she has time on her hands - too much when she started cleaning up my room the other day. Fun to get home and find one cannot find the driver CD for x, y or z or whatever. I even lost a new SP/DIF CD Audio cable that was on my desk waiting to be installed.

I also have the chance to buy someone's old Cyrix system real cheap. This took a day of negotiation (why do you need more than two PCs (I have a notebook and a desktop), but trying to explain why MS SBS Server 4.5 is a resource hog was well.... useless. I got round that by saying that I'd use it to learn to develop Web-based databases and that the server software performs better on its own PC. So I finally have a dedicated server which I'll move my tape backup and modem to, plus a hard disk. It comes with 64MB RAM, 8X CD, floppy and minitower case, plus a 1.2G HD. It is only a Cyrix P200 but at US$80, it is a steal.

What was Mom's first question after she agrees? Yup, you've guessed it, 'How big is the box'. Looks like I'll have to put off that Midi-tower ATX upgrade for a while. Sigh....

Had to laugh last night. She was complaining again - cos after 2 days the room looked normal (well to me). However, when she said 'I'm surprised you haven't got viruses on your CDs, as you just leave them lying on the desk etc.', well you've got to laugh about that comment!

Well, no more tests with VMWare at present. Just about to install NT Server RC1 on the Dual Celeron The Cyrix arrives tommorow.

Ah well, leave the office as it is! Maybe one day I'll get Mom to understand....

Well, I guess it's a guy thing. Women instinctively keep the living space clean and organized, because men sure wouldn't do it. Consider a list of the things invented by women: eating utensils, napkins, handkerchiefs, bathing, deodorant, probably soap for that matter.

* * * * *

This from Daniel C. Bowman []: 

Well, all in all, I consider your post a valiant attempt. ...for all of us. 

No dice though; the distaff side is playing by a different set of rules and from a different mindset. I had shown my wife the picture of Pournelle's Great Hall some time ago saying, "At least I don't have network cable running along the overhead." Her comment was something to the effect that he obviously was not married. I parried with, "Roberta is a saint" and things went downhill from there. I don't dare show her the "Bombs Away" story! ...and I cannot show her your pictures either as my "library" is more akin to Pournelle's style than yours!

You have a very clean, well organized work area in contrast to what I am used to. The main issue in the overall work style shown on the various sites may be our tendency to move from one project to the next without cleaning up the lab between sessions. It's probably just as well that all of us are set up in the computer world and are not working with chemistry sets any longer.

I would like to see a post from Syroid though; supposedly he actually found something that he was looking for the other day. ...after a Thompson Deep Clean.

Thank you for your support. What's depressing is that I know some women who are into PCs in a big way. Their work areas invariably resemble Barbara's. I notice it, too, when Barbara and I are building a PC. She'll open a box, remove the adapter card, re-insert all the extraneous stuff in the box, neatly close it, and stack it with the others, edges aligned geometrically. I keep saying, "No, no. Get what you need from the box and then toss it over your shoulder. We don't have time to be neat." Never works, though.

* * * * *

This from gcjtimm []: 

My Dear Mr. Thompson,

Your office looks just like family.

My wife thinks your wife isn't working hard enough in her office. ;->

This is what our office looked like, for about 10 minutes after we finished putting it back together.

hollyhascorner3.jpg (47841 bytes)

jeffcorner1.jpg (41953 bytes)

This is what it looked like before MAJOR renovations.

mynest.jpg (44661 bytes)

geoffpet.jpg (38068 bytes)

I'm working on my personal page to cover the Remodeling..

Installed a 6 station 100MPS LAN, 2 Netgear kits linked together. One Linux box yet to configure. Amazing how much time is eaten up by this terrible sleep habit of mine..

Jeff Timm 

Very nice. But even your "before" pictures look much neater and better organized than my place. Oh, well.



Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 by Robert Bruce Thompson. All Rights Reserved.