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Week of 26 February 2001

Latest Update: Friday, 05 July 2002 09:16

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Monday, 26 February 2001

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As it turned out, I didn't get much done yesterday. I ended up taking a long nap from early afternoon through dinner. I guess I needed it.

Have I mentioned that I hate Microsoft? Since I downloaded and involuntarily installed IE 5.01 SP1 on my main system, I can no longer conveniently use Dr. Keyboard's messageboard. The cookie that keeps track of last logon was frozen as of 2/23, and nothing I do changes that. I tried deleting the cookie, hoping that the board would recreate it, but that didn't happen. Nothing I do will make the messageboard write a cookie to my hard disk. Nothing. 

I know that it's not something I've disabled, because my own messageboards continue to write cookies properly and both they and Dr. K's messageboards are in the Trusted Zone. Also, I'm now unable to login to the administrators' area on that board. I can still get in from my notebook (and the cookies update there fine as well), so the problem isn't with the messageboard. It's with IE 5.01 SP1. God, how I hate Microsoft.

I hate Microsoft so much that I actually downloaded Netscape Navigator, knowing ahead of time that it was going to be a piece of crap, but hoping that it wasn't as crappy as IE 5.01 with SP1. I was disappointed, alas. Netscape is crap. They should have a picture of Netscape next to the word crap in the dictionary. 

How bad is it? I set the home page in Nav 6.01 to point to the local copy of my links page. The top section of that page is a search box (with a link to search tips from Atomz), followed by a bunch of bookmarks to sections lower on the page. Netscapes usual crappy rendering caused every one of those bookmark links to assume the value of the search tips hyperlink above them. Geez. 

The Netscape 6 interface is ugly, it's slower than molasses, and it's unstable to boot. What a piece of crap. One really has to hate Microsoft to use Navigator. I do hate Microsoft, so I suppose I should say that one has to hate Microsoft and have extreme masochistic tendencies to use Navigator.

I'm seriously considering reverting my main workstation to Windows NT 4 Workstation and installing IE 4.x. I seem to remember that when I installed IE5 that I noticed absolutely no improvements over IE 4.x. Am I forgetting something? I don't think so. 

Surely someone can make a browser that's usable? Just a browser. It doesn't need email. It doesn't need instant messaging. All it needs to be is a browser. I want fast, stable, and good rendering. I don't care about all the crap that Microsoft and Netscape have tried to tack on. It doesn't need Java, it doesn't need ActiveX, it doesn't need Javascript, it doesn't need Flash, it doesn't need RealAudio. All it needs to do is render HTML pages, period. If they can get that right and have some programming resources left over, they can concentrate on things like adding intelligent cookie management, banner-ad stripping functions, and so on. A browser, in other words, that gives users what they want rather than having the hidden agendas of the Microsoft and Netscape products. 

But no one makes a product like that. They're all too busy adding useless bells and whistles that don't work properly anyway. Years ago, I had hopes for Opera, but it's as bad a piece of trash as Netscape. Opera does things differently for the sake of being different. They need to get a clue. All they need do is more or less reproduce the IE interface and put a usable, stable, fast browser behind it. I'd pay the $35 for that, and so would a lot of other people. Instead, they've turned out a browser that has no real advantages over IE or Netscape, and expect people to pay for it. That, or suffer the ad-ware version. Geez.

So I installed StarOffice 5.2, which I'd downloaded last fall but never gotten around to installing on my notebook. Several people had commented about how much better StarOffice 5.2 was than 5.0 and 5.1, which I considered unusable. I'm writing this in StarOffice. The interface is certainly different but it may be workable. We'll just have to see. The "last updated" field doesn't automatically update, as it would in FrontPage, but that's no surprise. Otherwise, this seems to have much of the functionality of FrontPage, and it's NOT Microsoft.

The first showstopper was when I attempted to center the divider graphic above. For some reason, the Center icon isn't on the toolbar by default. Very strange. I finally found it and added it to the bar. Well, that's strange. I saved this page, did some other stuff, and then called it back up again. Now the alignment icons are there on the toolbar, just as you'd expect, with flush-left, centered, and flush-right icons about where I'd expect them to be. Those in addition to the one I added. Oh, well. Wait, I saved my changes, did a few other things and then opened this page again. The alignment icons are gone again. This program is possessed, I think.

Later last night: Well, it may not be Microsoft, but it also doesn't work. StarOffice 5.2 is also trash. It managed to mangle this page, doing unmentionable things to it, including stripping out the styles I use for divider lines, changing the font sizes (apparently at random) and other depredations. I ended up having to reconstruct the page from scratch. Thanks, Sun.

Star Office 5.2 is a bad joke as far as I'm concerned. I uninstalled it. It looks like I'm stuck with earlier versions of Microsoft products. I hate Microsoft. I hate Netscape. I hate Sun. At this point, I hate all software vendors.

I see that Jerry Pournelle is having problems with consumer electronics. In his case, it's that he can't tape a program unless he leaves the TV turned on and tuned to the channel he wants to tape. He switched to digital cable service, a mistake in my opinion, and obviously his VCR and TV can't decode the signal themselves. So his digital cable box is the only thing that can select and display a given channel. Bummer.

We're also having problems with consumer electronics, but in our case it's the TV in our den that's failing. It's a 7-year-old JVC with a 27" screen, and the picture sometimes turns into just a narrow horizontal line. Obviously there's something failing, probably either the flyback transformer or something in the high-voltage section. A TV that old usually isn't worth repairing, so our first thought was to run out and buy a new one. But I think we'll hold off on that. HDTV is starting to be deployed, and any TV we buy now will be obsolete in a couple of years anyway, so we may just make do with what we have. 

A couple of years ago, I bought Barbara a 25" TV for our bedroom. My mother had a 20", and we eventually ended up giving her the 25" and putting her 20" in our bedroom. The one in the bedroom gets used about once every couple of months, and my mother is now sitting about 5 feet away from a 25" screen, which is probably a bit large even for someone who's 82 years old. So I think we'll move the 25" to the den and give mom back the 20". For now, anyway. In a couple or three years, we can buy an HDTV unit, which by that time should be priced more reasonably.

I'm seriously considering building a new main system for myself, which would run Windows NT 4 Workstation with SP6a, Internet Explorer 4.x, and so on. I'm not sure about Office. As I recall, installing Office 2000 "upgrades" IE to 5.X, but I seem to remember reading that there's an option somewhere to retain 4.X instead of going to 5.X. I don't like where Microsoft is going with IE5 and later, and I'm not sure that 5 buys me anything over 4. If I build such a system, the goal will be to have a usable system that's free of Microsoft's recent attempts to lock users in to their plans for world domination. There are almost certainly aspects of that in IE 4.X, but fewer than in 5.X. Every Microsoft update, it seems, has a few bug fixes as a sop to the users, but is really intended to get everyone more and more in step with Microsoft's plans. So perhaps I should just pretend that the last couple of years never took place and build a system with software circa 1999.

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Tuesday, 27 February 2001

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The contract for the second edition of PC Hardware in a Nutshell arrived from O'Reilly yesterday, Monday, 26 February, 2001. I state the date explicitly, because the deadlines are kind of short. For example, the first two updated chapters are due Monday, 26 February 2001. Hmmm. I hate to start out missing deadlines before I've even gotten the contract. Well, O'Reilly folks are nothing if not reasonable, so I don't think it'll be a problem. But it does mean I'll be into some heads-down work updating the book over the next few months.

I've decided to make my sites subscription-based as of 1 March 2001. Initially, the sites will remain as they are, wide open to all comers, but that will eventually change, probably in the next couple of months. I feel strongly that people who support the sites should benefit directly from their willingness to provide that support, so I'll eventually close off sections of the sites, which will then become subscriber-only. There will also be other benefits, although I've not yet decided exactly what those will be. Among those I'm considering are the following, some or all of which may be implemented:

  • Priority email address - I can no longer keep up with all the email I receive, so I plan to provide subscribers with a private email address or a key phrase for the subject line that will allow me to sort those messages into a higher priority bucket. I can't promise to respond in detail to every message from a subscriber, particularly those for which a substantive response would require research, but I will give priority attention to those messages.
  • Private messageboard forum(s) - a "subscribers only" forum on the messageboard. I also plan to create a special level named "Subscriber", junior only to administrators and moderators. This membership level will be able to access both public and private forums, and will show the world (or at least everyone who reads the messageboard) that you support the sites.
  • Private web pages - password-protected access to subscribers-only areas of this site.
  • Early/Exclusive Access - some of the content I publish will be posted first to the subscribers-only access area, and only later to the public access areas. Some material will never be posted to the public-access areas.
  • Occasional email special reports, alerts, etc. - as the need arises, I'll send private email to subscribers. This won't be anything like regular. I might go weeks between sending such messages and then send two messages on sequential days. It'll all depend on what needs to be said and when it makes sense to use email rather than the web to say it.

I've dithered about how much to charge and what I've decided on is US$24/year for a general membership. That amounts to about 6.5 cents a day, and if what I write is not worth 6.5 cents a day to you, why are you wasting your time reading this? Both to reward "early adopters" and because it will take a couple of months to "privatize" the site, all subscription payments I receive on or before 31 March 2001 will be credited with an 18-month membership (through 30 September 2002) rather than 12 months.

I intend to set up a PayPal account soon (and perhaps other means of accepting payment as well) but for now if you want to subscribe, please do the following:

1. Make your check for $24.00 drawn in US funds payable to Robert Bruce Thompson, and mail it to:

Robert Bruce Thompson
Attn: Subscriptions
4231 Witherow Road
Winston-Salem, NC 27106

In the notes field on the check, please note the purpose of the check and the email address you want me to use.

2. After you mail the check, please send an email message to with the subject line "I paid" (without the quotes, of course). If you want the email address from which you send that message to be your address of record, you need do nothing further. If for some reason you want your address of record to be something other than the "From:" address of that message, please so indicate in the body of the message. Also, if you currently have an account on the TTG messageboard and/or the messageboard, please include your account name(s) so that I can upgrade your membership status to "subscriber". If you don't currently have an account on one or the other (or both), please set one up if you wish and send email to the private subscriber-only address to let me know the particulars.

If you want to send more than $24, please feel free to do so, although at this point it will buy you nothing more than my gratitude.

What can you expect for your money? Well, first of course, the satisfaction of knowing that you're supporting these sites and helping to ensure that they're here tomorrow, next month, and next year--and never with any form of advertising or other commercial influence. When I recommend something, you'll know it's because I believe it deserves that recommendation rather than because I've been paid, directly or indirectly, to recommend it. 

As to what happens beyond that, a lot depends on the number of subscribers. 

  • If fifty people subscribe, that defrays the actual out-of-pocket expenses I incur in operating the sites--stuff like domain name registrations, hosting fees, and so on. At this level, I'll be expending effort similar to what I do now, but with much of that effort directed to the subscriber-only area at the expense of the time I currently spend on the publicly accessible stuff.
  • If five hundred people subscribe, that would allow me to devote an additional hour or so per day to developing additional content for the benefit of subscribers.
  • If five thousand people subscribe, I could devote more than half my time solely to developing additional content for the benefit of subscribers. In addition, at that level I'd begin paying others to write some content, subject to my standards, of course.
  • If fifty thousand people subscribe, I'd retire rich and pay other people to do all the work. Only kidding. I'll retire when I die.

Obviously, I'd love to gather large numbers of subscribers, but realism tells me that I'll be starting small. In response to my straw poll, I got about 100 replies, nearly all of whom said they'd be willing to support the sites financially, and that on a purely voluntary basis. I'm hoping that by providing actual benefits for subscribing that that number will increase somewhat. I expect to get 50 to 100 subscriptions initially. I'd be happy if I get 250, and delighted if I get 500. But if all that happens is that I receive enough support to defray my out-of-pocket expenses, well I'm further ahead than I was.

Disclaimer: All funds submitted become the property of Robert Bruce Thompson, none will be returned, and we promise nothing beyond the continuation of this web page with updates however often we do them, which heretofore has been at least weekly and nearly always daily. 

There'll be much more on this over the coming days and weeks, and I'll eventually formalize this material as a single subscription information page. Until then, send in your subscriptions and stay tuned.

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Wednesday, 28 February 2001

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Thanks to everyone who's already subscribed. If you haven't subscribed yet, why not? Click here to find out how to do it.

Pournelle called yesterday, and we had an interesting long phone conversation. I asked Jerry why he had decided to go the voluntary route rather than making his site subscription-based, and he explained that he based his method on the time-honored PBS/NPR begging scheme, including the occasional nudges to contribute. That seems to work out well for Jerry, but I object to it on what amount to philosophical grounds. It seems to me that passing the hat is demeaning to the artist, and suggests that what the artist does is inherently without real value, but perhaps worthy of a little charity.

Jerry also suggested implementing a "Patron" membership, although neither of us are entirely sure what that means. In effect, I suppose, it's for people who not only want to contribute towards the continuation of the sites, but want to do a little more than the norm towards helping that effort. Jerry sets the Patron level at $36/year, which sounds reasonable to me. So, if you want to subscribe as a Patron, make your check for $36 and the subject of your confirming email "I Paid (Patron)".

We have some progress on other fronts. I signed up for a PayPal Premium account, although it won't be active for several days. They're the cause of the delay. Supposedly, they're going to transfer small sums into my bank account. I then have to call the bank and find out the amounts of the two small deposits, enter those amounts in a validation form, and jump through some other hoops. Then I have to transfer $100 from my bank account to PayPal, which gave me pause. Jerry said he didn't have to do any such thing when he set up his Premium account there, so I'm not sure why they've made that change.

At any rate, once PayPal is functioning, I'll be able to accept funds from anyone who has a PayPal account. If you don't have one and want to set one up (it's useful for many other things), you'll be able to do it through me and PayPal will credit my account with a $5 kickback for bringing them the new account. Also, they have something called Web Accept which will in theory allow me to accept direct credit card payments from people who don't have a PayPal account.

There're a lot of messages and responses over on the messageboard. To read them, click here.

Ator (AKA Ben Rota) from Ars Technica sent me an interesting email yesterday. In it was a link to a site maintained by a comic book author. The author, in his chosen format, makes the point I've been making here for a long time. It's worth looking at.

I talked to my editor at O'Reilly yesterday, who was a bit embarrassed at the deadline dates on the contracts they'd sent. He suggested just scratching out those dates, inserting reasonable dates in their places, and initialing the contracts. So that's what we're doing, and as of today we start heads-down work on the second edition of PC Hardware in a Nutshell. We'll be soliciting input from readers (particularly subscribers) about how to make the book better. So if you've always wanted to tell an author what he's doing wrong, now's your chance.

We'll be going through the book generally sequentially, with some exceptions. That is, we'll update chapter 1 first, then chapter 2, and so on. The exceptions have to do mainly with how dynamic a topic is. For example, chapters 3 and 4 (motherboards and processors) cover components that change almost literally from day to day, so we'll defer working on those chapters to as late in the process as possible. Floppy disk drives, on the other hand, are a mature (not to say moribund) technology, so anything we've written there probably won't need many changes.

If you're interested in making your opinion known, get out your copy of PC Hardware in a Nutshell and read through Chapter 1, Fundamentals. Read critically, and tell us what you come up with. If something isn't clear to you, say so. If we made a mistake, tell us. If we forgot to cover something important, say so. Obviously, we can't promise to incorporate every suggestion, but we will certainly consider each of them carefully. I've set up a topic on the messageboard for Chapter 1, and will add topics for each chapter as we start work on them. Actually, come to think of it, I think I'll add a topic for each chapter now, so that if someone has a comment to make on any chapter there'll be a place for it.

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Thursday, 1 March 2001

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As of today, this is officially a subscription site. This journal page and a lot of other stuff will remain freely available, but a lot of the good stuff will be either available only to subscribers, or available to subscribers earlier than to non-subscribers.

Thanks to everyone who's subscribed. I'm working on setting up the private subscribers' area now, and plan to have a batch of confirmation messages go out this weekend. If you haven't subscribed yet, why not? Click here to find out how to do it.

Barbara and I have gotten very concerned about speeding cars in our neighborhood. Our street is only three longish blocks long, and we live in about the middle of the middle block. One end of the street dead-ends into a circular area, and there are a bunch of teenage boys that hang out there. The image below shows the view from the street in front of our house towards the dead-end circle where they congregate, presumably at one of their homes. That area is not quite visible due both to distance and to the small rise that conceals it. 

witherow.jpg (80072 bytes)

It's about 450 feet (140 m) from the camera position to the third telephone pole visible, which marks a cross street. It's another 1,000+ feet (305+ m) from that intersection to the dead-end circle. These teenage boys are no different than I was at their age. They like to drive fast. And they apparently consider our street to be a suitable drag strip. We're afraid they're going to kill someone. 

The other night, Barbara and I were out walking the dogs about 9:30 when we heard one of the kids start to rev his car. Barbara and I immediately got ourselves and the dogs off the street and into someone's front yard. Sure enough, the kid came down the street with his foot on the floor. As it happened, I'd earlier paced off the distance between streetlights, so I started counting one-thousand-one ... as he blew past one streetlight and stopped counting as he passed the next one. It took almost exactly two seconds. 

Given that the streetlights paced out as 200 feet apart--which is confirmed by the fact that our neighborhood has 100 foot lots--that translates to something on the very close order of 100 ft/s (~30.5 m/s) or 68 miles/hour (~110 km/hr). Now, I was a teenage kid once, and I remember driving like a maniac, but that seemed a bit excessive. Particularly so for a residential neighborhood where there are a lot of older people, kids, pets, and other living things on the street at that time of evening. And, although this is the worst case we've seen, it's by no means the only one. Kids come through here at 50+ miles/hour quite frequently. Someone is going to be hurt or killed.

So I called the cops. They say there's not much they can do except what they call "directed patrols". Apparently, they'll increase their visibility in the neighborhood for a while, and perhaps have a heart-to-heart chat with these kids. Maybe it'll help, but probably not.

But what I found amazing was that when I called the cops I kept get bounced around. I'd talk to one person and he'd give me the direct number of another person. Each time, I'd hit the new person's voice mail and leave a message. And, in every case, the voicemail greeting message started out something like, "Hi, this is Captain So-and-so. If this is an emergency, please hang up now and dial 911 ..."

Talk about evolution in action. Anyone who needed emergency assistance and was somehow dumb enough first to dial a non-emergency police number and then to leave a voicemail message to request that assistance is a prime candidate for the Darwin Award. The gene pool would be better off without him.

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Friday, 2 March 2001

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The process of converting this to a subscription site continues. Thanks to everyone who's subscribed. I'm still getting things set up, and I've filtered all of the "I paid" messages into a dedicated Subscribers folder. There should be welcome email going out to new subscribers in the next couple of days. My first inclination was to send a "thanks for subscribing" email response immediately, but I want to get some ducks lined up first so that I don't end up sending out conflicting or confusing emails. Thanks for your patience.

A few notes on the whole process:

1. Many people have asked about PayPal. As of a few minutes ago the PayPal account was verified and is now functioning. If you'd like to subscribe using PayPal, the account name is:

pay (at) ttgnet (dot) com

2. Many people have asked about credit card payments. I hope to have that function available by the first of next week. PayPal provides a service called "Web Accept", which allows people to pay directly via credit card. I'll have a link on the subscription page (once I create that page). You'll be able to click on the link, which will connect you directly to the PayPal secure server. You'll enter your credit card details there, and PayPal will charge your account and credit my account with the amount charged (less, of course, their fees).

3. I've gotten many messages from readers outside the US, all of which detail just how hard it is to transfer funds from other countries to my US account. One reader, for example, told me that he'd have to pay a US$30 fee to transfer US$24 to me. (That's a total of US$54, not $30.) That's obviously stupid, and I don't expect anyone to do it. I'm hoping that PayPal, either via their standard mechanism or via Web Accept, will let us overcome that problem. Of course, I get two completely different stories. PayPal says there's no problem transferring money from overseas. My readers say there is. Guess which one I believe? I'll keep you posted on what happens about this.

4. Many people have expressed concern about my plans to "close" the site. Once again, I'll emphasize that I am not closing the site. This journal page, the message boards, and other stuff  will continue to be available to non-subscribers. All I'm doing is making some content accessible only to subscribers, or accessible to subscribers before it's posted for free download, giving subscribers higher priority email access, creating private subscriber-only forums on the message boards, and so on. Everything will otherwise continue just as it always has.

5. Several people have commented that they much prefer Pournelle's method, which he patterns after PBS begging. I'm at a loss for words here. As far as I can see there's absolutely no difference between what Pournelle is doing and what I'm doing. We're both providing private, subscriber-only content. We're both providing priority email addresses. We're both maintaining a freely-available public site. What's the difference? 

The only difference I can see is that I'm explicitly saying that if you want access to subscriber-only benefits, you have to subscribe. Whether you choose to do that is obviously up to you, which is to say "voluntary". Pournelle, on the other hand, emphasizes that supporting his site financially is "voluntary", but of course you don't get access to subscriber-only benefits on his site unless you voluntarily choose to subscribe. So what's the difference? Maybe that Pournelle is smarter than I am, I guess.

In the case of PBS, of course, sending money truly is voluntary. Whether or not you choose to support PBS financially, you still have the same access as anyone else. In Pournelle's and my cases, there is a difference for people who subscribe and those who don't. Kind of like having cable TV service and deciding whether or not you want to pay extra to get HBO. So in that respect I'm simply making things explicit.

6. I've gotten many emails taking me to task for the amount I've decided to charge. About half of those people think I'm charging too much, but the other half think I'm charging too little. To the first group, all I can say is "come on, folks". I'm charging $24/year, which is about the same as a typical magazine subscription. About $0.065 per day, in other words. Many of you, presumably including most would-be subscribers, visit my sites daily. Some, multiple times per day. How many magazines that you pay $24/year for do you get that amount of use or benefit from? To those who tell me I'm charging too little, thanks. It's nice to be appreciated. But I intentionally set the price low to make subscribing a no-brainer decision for most people. If you truly believe that I should be charging more, please feel free to send more. But that decision is yours, and any additional amount you send is truly voluntary.

More later as things progress...

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Saturday, 3 March 2001

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Barbara is off to her spinning class this morning. I understand that spinning is increasingly popular among women nowadays. I think it's a Good Thing that women are returning to traditional values. In Republican Rome, every wife had a spinning wheel and made her husband's clothes. I'm looking forward to seeing what Barbara is making for me.

Only kidding, dear. But when Barbara first announced that she was going to attend spinning class, I really did think she meant "spinning" in the sense of manufacturing yarn. These days, with crafts so popular, who knows? And, in context, that use of the word "spinning" was the only one that made sense to me at the time. I've since learned that spinning is some form of girlish exercise. I have this vision of a bunch of women spinning like tops on an exercise mat, but I'm sure it's not like that at all. Is it? Actually, if Barbara wants exercise, I don't understand why she doesn't sign up at a Shotokan dojo. If she stuck with it, we could eventually have a two black belt family.

The weather around here is variable, as usual. Yesterday was sunny with a high temperature in the mid-70s (~23C). Today is to be rainy and warm. Tomorrow, there's a winter storm forecast, with snow and freezing rain expected overnight Sunday. The school authorities are dithering about what to do. A couple of weeks ago, they waited until too late to call off classes. Some children ended up in school that day and others not. A young woman was killed when her car skidded while she was driving to the school where she was a high school senior. So not calling off school during inclement weather is a very bad thing. But calling off school and then not having the inclement weather appear is also bad because it discommodes thousands of parents who suddenly have to figure out what to do with their kids. I don't envy the school system authorities who have to make that call.

We're not equipped for snow around here. Where I grew up, in the snow belt of northwestern Pennsylvania, every government truck had the hydraulics for a snow plow. During major storms, any government vehicle of reasonable size was out there plowing. Garbage trucks, school busses, all the government pickups--anything that could drive a plow was pressed into service. Not so here. We barely have enough plows to keep the major roads open after a few inches of snow. Every decade or so we get a major snow of a foot or 18 inches (30 to 50 cm). When that happens, the entire area comes to a standstill.

I suppose it might be argued that it makes no economic sense to spend thousands of dollars installing hydraulics and plows on all the garbage trucks and so on when we sometimes go from year to year without measurable snow fall. But that cost is minor compared to the amounts the government wastes anyway, and the economic costs of even a moderate snowfall are not trivial in terms of people not being able to get to work, wrecking their cars on unplowed roads, and so on. 

Of course, there'd be training and other issues to consider. I remember up in Pennsylvania years ago they had a guy plowing with a garbage truck on a road he wasn't familiar with. He was merrily plowing along at about 30 MPH (48 KPH) when his blade encountered a slightly raised railroad track at a crossing. That truck was never the same again. Neither was the railroad track. Neither was the driver.

Some interesting stuff has been arriving. Yesterday I got a preview release of Nero Burning ROM 5.5, although I'm not allowed to talk about it yet. I've also been working with a bunch of different third-party heatsink/fan units. (Short answer: if you're not running overclocked, the heatsink/fan included with the processor is fine. If you are running overclocked or just want better CPU cooling, go with a TaiSol unit, although they're very hard to find. The best stuff often is). And I have motherboards stacked up to the extent that there's a danger of avalanche.

Subscriptions continue to arrive. Thanks to everyone who's subscribed. What I find amazing is that a fair percentage of new subscribers are voluntarily sending in $36 to become Patron Subscribers. Thanks to all of you. I should have a formalized Subscription page up in the next couple of days, along with a button to allow subscribing by credit card.

More as things develop.

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Sunday, 4 March 2001

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Thanks to everyone who has subscribed. If you haven't subscribed yet and would like to do so, click here for instructions. The PayPal account is now set up and active, so if you prefer to use PayPal rather than sending a check, you can send that payment to the account pay (at) ttgnet (dot) com. I'm "batching" subscription processing, so if you don't hear from me for a day or so, please bear with me. Thanks!

Here's a professor-student story that made me laugh out loud. And speaking of snappy comebacks to professors, that reminds me of something that happened at the Harvard Business School many years ago.

It seems there was a hated-and-feared professor who was known for ruling his classroom with an iron hand. One of those rules that was once class started, no one was admitted. One morning, the professor was well into his lecture when the door at the back of the classroom opened and in stepped one of the better (and therefore more arrogant) students. The professor stopped speaking and stared as the student calmly walked down the stairs, made his way over to his assigned seat, took his place, and arranged his materials. After staring at the student for another fifteen seconds, the professor said, "The least you can do is say 'good morning', you son of a bitch." Without dropping a beat, the student replied, "Good morning, you son of a bitch".

I'm pretty sure the story is true, because the guy who told me about it was my employer at the time he told me, had been the dean of the Wake Forest University Babcock Graduate School of Management, where I was pursuing my own MBA at that time, and had also been a professor at HBS when the incident occurred. In fact, I'm almost sure he was the professor in question.

I see by the UPS tracking page that our telescope should arrive tomorrow. Of course, the forecast is now for 40 days and 40 nights of clouds and rain, but that's only to be expected. Buying a new telescope is the best way known to ensure cloudy, rainy weather. And I see in small print in the description for our telescope one of the most dreaded three-word phrases in the English language, "Some assembly required." Hmmm.

I'm off to do laundry and other household chores this morning. Next week will be short-shrift time here. I've promised my editor I'll have the first two updated chapters of PC Hardware in a Nutshell to him by Friday, I have a test-bed system to build, and then there are the sanity check passes I do on Pournelle's column. So I'll be a bit busy. I'll keep you posted as to what's going on.

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