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Week of 23 August 2004

Latest Update: Saturday, 28 August 2004 09:25 -0400

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Monday, 23 August 2004

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{Five Years Ago Today]

08:21 - I didn't make it. I intended to finish up the Power Supplies chapter yesterday. It was my final self-imposed deadline. But I didn't make it. I'm going to finish it today, come what may. I have to write a Wireless Networking chapter by next Wednesday, the 1st, so I simply don't have any more time to spend on this one.

As usual, I'll be posting the draft chapters on the subscribers' page, but not until my editor has a chance to look at them. That means the Power Supplies chapter won't go up until early September, once I've submitted it and the Wireless Networking chapter to my editor.

I had another self-imposed deadline that I'm not going to make. I wanted to move Barbara to Xandros Desktop 2.5 Linux by 1 September, but I'm not going to be able to that. I still need to take some time to make sure she can do everything she needs to do on Xandros, including such things as synching her PDA.

To make sure I can get back to the starting point if necessary, I'll copy all her data from her current Windows 2000 system first, and then replace the hard drive before I install Xandros. That way, if the wheels come off, I can always re-install her original hard drive and get her back to where she was.

I've been using desktop Linux almost exclusively for more than a month now, and it's generally worked well. There are a lot of nice little things about using Linux and Linux apps. For example, when I'm working on a chapter in Word 2000 and exit the program, I always have to search for where I'd been working when I re-open the document. StarOffice 7 takes me right back to where I'd been working the last time I saved.

Conversely, there are some nice little things about using Windows that I miss. For example, with Windows 2000, I can simply right click on the task bar and tell Windows to arrange the active apps horizontally or vertically in non-overlapping panes. Windows automatically gives each active app an equal part of the screen. With Linux, I have to do all that manually, sizing the windows in question and dragging them so they don't overlap. Or at least if Xandros/KDE has a way to do that automatically I haven't found it.

13:14 - The Power Supplies chapter is off to my editor. What a relief. I've often said that writers may be the only men who have even a glimmer of what a woman goes through in carrying and delivering a baby. Not the physical aspects, of course, but the mental and psychological aspects must be quite similar.

For the last several days, I've just wanted this to be over. Of course, that's just one chapter, and this continues for the rest of the chapters. By the time I finish a book, I've been in get-it-over-with mode for months, just as I suspect most women are while they await their time.

Now I get to start on the new Wireless Networking chapter. Again, you have to be a writer to fully appreciate this, but the fact is that revising existing material is much harder work and much less fun than writing new material. Having the chance to write a new chapter is something I've been looking forward to the whole time I've been revising the Power Supplies chapter.

And, just as I was about to mail the chapter off to my editor, FedEx showed up with my delivery from NewEgg, which wasn't due until tomorrow. I tossed aside the spindle of DVD+RW discs and the 10-pack of NiMH AA cells, and jumped on the 256 MB SD card for the Concord 5345Z digital camera.

It took me a couple minutes to get the blister-wrap package open. At one point, I was considering using the chainsaw or the hydraulic log splitter, but I did eventually get it open with scissors. I popped the 256 MB card into the camera, which is set for 2560x1920 resolution and the best quality level. It tells me I have room to store 103 images, which is nice. I was getting really tired of seeing the status indicator reading 4 or less, which is all that'll fit into the 9.7 MB of internal memory.

I'll finally be able to give this tiny camera a real workout. Like most of my testing, this'll be a real-world test. I'm not going to go out and shoot images of brick walls to measure lens distortion or take images of a standard color card with different white-balance settings. I'm going to shot real images, many of which will appear in the book. If they're sharp and look good, that's all I care about.

I wonder about the real storage capacity of this card, though. At 2560x1920 resolution and its best compressed image quality, my Olympus C-5000Z generates images that are typically 1.1 MB to 1.6 MB each. I can get anywhere from 20 to 28 images on a 32 MB xD card. Unless the Concord is using a substantially less lossy JPEG compression level at its best image quality, that means I should actually get somewhere between 150 and 225 images on the 256 MB card, rather than the 103 indicated. If the Concord really does produce 2.5 MB files, the image quality at best quality should be considerably better than the Olympus, assuming lens quality and other factors are equal. We'll see.


Tuesday, 24 August 2004

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{Five Years Ago Today]

08:51 - I spent a few minutes last night playing with K3b burning DVD+RWs under Xandros. For a realistic sample data store, I picked Barbara's and my primary working directories as well as an image directory. There were several thousand files, totaling about 3 GB. K3b under Xandros wrote those files at a rate of 5,318 KB/s or about 16,630 MB/hr, which is roughly 4.5 times faster than a DDS-3 tape drive writes the same files. Here's what the K3b write dialog looks like:

k3b burning a DVD

That's fast enough that I can do casual backups during the working day while I'm out in the yard with the dogs or taking a short break. For archives, as opposed to backups, I'll write to DVD+R discs, which I can write at 8X or 12X, depending on which burner I use (and which discs). With one of those, I should be able to fill a disc in about seven to ten minutes.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: kde
Date: Mon, 23 Aug 2004 23:45:00 +0200
From: Bo Leuf
To: Robert Bruce Thompson

What I can do in KDE Linux is right-click on current desktop itself and select "Unclutter Windows". Sometimes optimal effect is achieved by first selecting "Cascade", then "Unclutter".

KDE is otherwise pretty clever at opening new windows to maximize usage of available screen area.

/ Bo

And indeed that does work exactly as I would like. Thanks!

I'm gradually accumulating the tools and knowledge I need to make Linux not just a viable desktop OS for me, but a better OS than Windows.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: kde
Date: Tue, 24 Aug 2004 09:11:54 -0000 (UTC)
From: Bo Leuf
To: Robert Bruce Thompson

Happy to provide the helpful hint.

Often enough in the beginning of using Linux on a daily basis, I found that my own experience of MS Windows had me looking for functionality options in the "wrong" place or in the "wrong" way. Even today I can find unexpected new tweaks that in retrospect should have been "obvious". A number have been "aha" moments of recognizing a third-party add-on to Windows that implements a similar feature, though usually simplified in that context.

Sometimes, I wouldn't even think to look for a feature, perhaps because it didn't exist in Windows, or did but was embedded in a non-tweakable way. There's a lot of truth in the view that much of the Windows NT codebase was at its core a for-convenience crippled *nix. Heaven knows enough bits of *nix architectural details remain in it to this day (XP).

As for KDE, it's not always "intuitive" or necessarily well integrated in its feature set. Yet despite being in constant developmental flux and possible to customize functionally in remarkable ways, I find it overall more consistent than the GUI variations between Windows NT, 2k and XP.

Originally, i thought to use one of the more lightweight GUIs, but Knoppix Debian installed the full kitcehn-sink KDE (along with a selection of the others). Thus I kept coming back to KDE when the lightweight ones turned out to lack this or the other feature.

Not as if my computer resources have problems handling KDE, even if it's a bit heavy on the older 300 MHz P3 machine, but my original thought (reinforced by a lot of Linux-geek diskussions) was that lightweight was better and KDE was buggy. These days, I'm far more ambivalent about the relative merits of each approach.

I'm also ambivalent about the "emulate MS look&feel" trend that intends to make life easier for the newbie convert. The approach has merit but does unfortunately deemphasize some of the really useful features in Linux GUI implementations in order to seem "familiar".

On the other hand, the user can still enable and explore the native feature set at will, whatever the default. However, it's likely most people won't bother as long as the preset and familiar environment "works" for their purposes. Few enough bothered to change the default settings in Windows even when they should have.

/ Bo


Wednesday, 25 August 2004

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{Five Years Ago Today]

09:19 - My apologies for the short posts and my inability to keep up with my mail. I am reading all my mail, but I simply don't have time to respond. I have one week left until my 1 September deadline, and by that time I want to finish the Wireless Networking chapter and get it off to my editor at O'Reilly. In addition to the writing, I have to set up a wireless network, build a machine or two, and shoot a bunch of images and screen shots. It's going to be a busy week.

Speaking of shooting images, I tried out the Concord 5345Z digital camera last night with the 256 MB SD memory card. It seemed to work fine, but I ran into a problem downloading the images from the camera. When I first tried downloading from the Olympus C-5000Z to my Xandros box, everything worked fine, albeit with some strange things happening.

When I plugged the Olympus into the USB port on the Xandros box, three new entries appeared in Xandros File Manager--Removable Disk 1, Removable Disk 2, and Removable Disk 3. The first two were described as "Zip 1" and "Zip 2" when I clicked on them. There was nothing there, and XFM prompted me to insert a disk. When I clicked on Removable Disk 3, the contents of the camera's storage card appeared. Removable Disk 3 appears only when the camera is connected and turned on. Removable Disks 1 and 2 are persistent.

The same thing happened the first time I connected the Concord 5345Z and turned it on. Removable Disk 3 appeared on XFM, and I was able to copy images from the camera to the hard drive. Last night, I made what I think might have been a big mistake. Instead of just using XFM to access the images stored on the camera, I decided to see what the "Digital Camera" app located on the Applications -> Graphics menu would do. So I fired it up, only to find that it didn't recognize the presence of the Concord 5345Z, even though the camera was listed under USB devices as a digital camera.

So I shut down the camera and exited the Digital Camera app. When I fired up XFM, though, Removable Disk 3 did not appear, and now I can't figure out any way to get to the data on the camera using Xandros. I even cruised down through the hidden directories and deleted every directory and file I could find that the Digital Camera app had produced.

I think my next step will be to uninstall the Digital Camera app and see if I can then access Removable Disk 3. If not, I can always download from the camera with a Windows box.

16:25 - The Kerry Campaign is pulling out all the stops to make the Swift Boat Veterans issue disappear. Obviously, Kerry is running scared. He's made a point of his service in Viet Nam, and he's now watching the wheels come off, thanks to the Swift Boat Veterans group. Kerry has enlisted the support of other liberal politicians like McCain and Cleland, but they've only made emotional arguments. They haven't provided any facts to dispute the Swift Boat Veterans' claims.

I wasn't there that day, so I don't know the truth of the matter. I do know this. There were five boat commanders present, one of whom was killed shortly after the event in question. Of the four remaining boat commanders, Kerry tells one story and the three other boat commanders tell a conflicting story. I know whom I believe.

From the available evidence, it appears that Mr. Kerry's service in Viet Nam was more in the nature of getting his ticket punched than the heroic story he presents. The vast majority of the men he served with, including his commanders, despised him then and despise him now. And those men run the gamut, black and white, liberal and conservative, Republican and Democrat. From the available evidence, it seems that to know Mr. Kerry is to despise him.

His actions upon returning from Viet Nam were certainly despicable, and are a matter of public record. They may be more than despicable. I've heard Mr. Kerry referred to more than once as a "treasonous son of a bitch". I am not a lawyer, but it seems to me that Mr. Kerry's unsupported statements that he saw other US servicemen commit war crimes at least approach the line.

I don't much like Mr. Bush. In fact, I think he's probably as bad a president as we've ever had, or nearly so. (Mr. Lincoln must surely claim that dubious honor, closely followed by FDR). But, as bad as Bush is, if I must choose between him and Kerry, I'd choose Bush in a heartbeat. On my personal 0-to-100 scale of desirability, Mr. Bush rates somewhere between 0 and 1. But Mr. Kerry is far down in the negative numbers.


Thursday, 26 August 2004

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{Five Years Ago Today]

09:33 -
I'm still working on the Wireless Networking chapter. Not much else interesting to write about...

Problems with Kingston memory...

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Questioning Kingston ...
Date: Wed, 25 Aug 2004 15:30:48 -0500
From: Michael Hipp
To: Robert Bruce Thompson


For years all I've bought is Kingston RAM and with good results. Memory problems have been few and far between. I've built tons of systems using the ASUS A7N8X-VM/400. All of them to-date have been <= Athlon 2400+. Lately I've been reading unflattering opinions about Kingston here and there.  Then this tale of woe happened to me ...

1. Built system with ASUS A7N8X-VM/400, 512MB Kingston 3200/400, Athlon XP 2800+, Antec case.
2. Per routine ran memtest86 v3.1a - lots of memory errors.
3. No problem, swap in a different stick of Kingston 512MB 3200/400 - still lots of memory problems.
4. ASUS spec only calls for 2700 memory so swap in a stick of 512MB Kingston 2700/333 - still lots of memory problems.
5. Decide memtest86 must be lying so I try to install WinXP Home on it, gets to 27% installed and begins complaining about file copy errors. Soon hangs.
6. Must be bad motherboard, swap in a different ASUS A7N8X-VM/400 - still lots of memory errors.
7. Bad processor chip? Swap in a different 2800+ - still memory errors.
8. Bad power supply? Swap in a known-good Seasonic 300W - still lots of memory errors.
9. Try loading XP again, it doesn't even get fully into setup again before hanging.
10. Lots of other weirdness - hangs when in BIOS setup screen. Complains about bad BIOS checksum, ASUS splash screen appears upside down, etc.
11. Call ASUS level I tech support, they say get the mobo out of the case and try it with nothing touching it. Still lots of memory errors.
12. Call back and get transferred to ASUS level II. He has no idea other than to RMA both ASUS boards. We both agree that's not likely the problem.

{This problem, for all the world, still just looks like a bad stick of memory even tho I've tried 3 different ones. I mention that, on recommendation from a knowledgeable cyberfriend, I've ordered a 512M 2700 stick of Corsair to try. He says try it before the RMA. When asked about memory brands, he chooses his words carefully but says something about noticeable speed differences with Kingston.}

13. Corsair memory stick arrives. Stick it in the still uncased mobo and run memtest86 for most of the day without error one. Load XP flawlessly.
14. Do some reading on the memtest86 site and he says that the particular tests I'm failing are real memory problems and he seems to hint that Athlon processors are good at flushing out bad memory.
15. Make mental note to use the Kingston sticks I currently own on nothing faster than 2400+ and never buy another one.

I suppose this experience could be chalked up to unbelievably bad luck. But I'm now a believer. From now on it's Corsair or Samsung for me.

You may want to poll your sources and see if their opinions about Kingston are changing any.

Michael Hipp
Hipp & Associates

I've not had any problems like those you describe with Kingston memory. Corsair is indeed a good brand of memory. I have it running in two or three of my systems, although I seldom use "performance" memory. Corsair is a memory packager, like Kingston, rather than a manufacturer, like Crucial/Micron. Corsair "cherry picks" memory chips, selecting only the fastest ones to incorporate in their modules.

My guess is that there was some incompability between the motherboard and the SPD data on the Kingston memory modules that caused the memory to run faster timings than it was designed to run. If I'd encountered that situation, I'd have tried setting memory timings manually.

More on Kerry and the Swift Boat Veterans.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Bob, re Kerry
Date: Wed, 25 Aug 2004 23:15:46 -0700
From: Mark Huth
To: Robert Bruce Thompson

In the interest of accuracy you might want to read the following, direct contradiction of what Swift Boat vets are saying, written by William Rood, who is the only other surviving skipper of the 3 swift boats that day.

Further, article contains the memo written by Kerry's commander Roy Hoffman.  The same fella who is now critical of Kerry that day and said that Kerry acted in a manner "impulsive to a fault" that day.  Seems that Admiral Elmo Zumwalt flew down to give Kerry the medal and Hoffman wrote a strongly supportive memo of Kerry's actions at that time.  Copy of actual memo is enclosed in the article.  Interesting stuff and seems that Hoffman and the swift boat folks may well be lying. Natch, 30 years may well have clouded some memories.

Further, seems that all of Roods and Kerry's sailors have come out in the last 48 hours and have supported the "Kerry" version. 

Now, I'm not sure if you are a combat vet. I'm not, but am the son of a combat vet.  My father was with the 82nd Airborne during WWII and fought in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, Normandy, in Holland, and at the Bulge.  He has 6 combat jumps (the most of any living US soldier) as well as two purple hearts.  I'm told by one of his friends that he also has a silver star, and a bronze star (although he won't confirm or deny that).  His comments about Kerry's behavior after his return from Vietnam are quite interesting.  My father says that every combat soldier commits atrocities in every war, that it is naïve in the extreme to believe that it isn't so.  As an example, he asked me to reread the opening story in the Band of Brothers.  In that story, the 101 airborne is asked to take three artillery emplacements.  They do so and some German soldiers attempt to surrender, throwing down their weapons and kneeling before the Americans.  The American soldiers execute the Germans as they kneel there.  I asked my father if he did such things.  His comment was that he fought for two years almost full time and was in intense combat much of that time.  He doesn't ever, ever talk about what he and his Airborne brothers did, but wishes that someone could convey the absolute horror of what went on in his "good" war.  My father strongly supports what Kerry did post service. 

Why then did my fathers generation remain silent and Kerry and thousands of others of his generation speak out?  My dad said at the time and says now that the tragic thing about Vietnam was that the war became a political tool.  My dad suggested that I actually read what Kerry said (I've enclosed a copy of that below) and where and to whom he said it.  My father has suggested that Kerry and his colleagues of the "winter soldiers" showed tremendous moral courage in their willingness to testify.  He feels that they had no surety that they would be employable, that they wouldn't be forever harmed by their actions post-combat.  Note that Kerry never said that he saw any atrocities, he testified that other soldiers had recounted such stories at the Winter Soldier Investigation in Detroit.  The thrust of his testimony was that the soldier in Vietnam was abandoned, that the war wasn't necessary and that all those deaths weren't serving any purpose.


My father at age 84 draws a strong analogy between Vietnam and Iraq.  As an example, he points out that one doesn't ask 2,500 Marines to control a city of 600,000 (Fallujah).  That is a political decision, not a military decision. One doesn't stop soldiers from completing the task of taking over a city in order to make political hay.  (Note that this doesn't have anything to do with our entry into Iraq, just the conduct of the "war").  My father feels that much the same self-serving political behavior exists in our government today as it did in the Vietnam era.  My dad also feels that the president sets the tone and directs the actions of government...thus that Bush sets the tone and directs the actions of those who control the military. My dad will vote for Kerry.  

As a counterpoint to my fathers "ancient history" perspective on Kerry, after I read your note today, I called a friend who served as a highly decorated combat Marine "grunt" in Vietnam and asked him to give me his spin.  He said that he intends to vote for Kerry. I read him what Kerry said in 1971 and my friend George said "Yes, all of us heard of those things happening".  George was aware of the "winter soldier" investigation after his return from service, but chose to get on with his life and not invest any more energy.  He still feels that he was abandoned and what he says is an echo of my fathers comments.  He, too, feels that the American soldier is being abandoned in Iraq. 

Finally, all of the debate about what happened 30 years ago is of little import in the large picture.  I'm not sure we get an accurate picture of who we are by looking at what we were 30 years ago.  I was an immature 21 year old.  I hope I've learned something since then. 

Now, I should vote for Bush because he's been very, very good for me in terms of taxation.  I just can't bring myself to do it. 


As I said, I wasn't there that day, so I don't know what happened. I have read a lot of what's been said by both sides, though, and I find the Swift Boat Veterans version more credible.

I am not a combat vet, and I give thanks to those who are for making it unnecessary for me to fight to preserve our freedoms. At the same time, I've had many friends who were combat vets, and when the interests of our soldiers are at odds with those of politicians, which is often the case, I come down four-square in support of the combat soldiers.

No matter what the law says, I don't believe that shooting prisoners is necessarily a war crime. Sometimes it's simply the only sane option. I remember, for example, talking to a guy who fought in Korea and told me he and his unit had shot NK and Chicom prisoners. From the situation he described, they had no real alternative. Under the circumstances he described, I'd have done the same.

I also remember talking with a guy who'd landed at Omaha Beach as a US Army sergeant and walked to Berlin. He told me about the first time his unit attempted to accept the surrender of two SS guys who were walking towards them with their hands up. When the SS guys got close, the front guy dropped to the ground as the rear guy pulled an MP40 submachine gun that had been strapped to the back of the front guy and opened up on my friend's unit. My friend and his buddies gunned down the two SS guys.

From that point on, my friend and his unit never accepted surrender of SS. They shot SS who tried to surrender, although they did take Wehrmacht prisoners. I suppose my friend and his buddies were war criminals by a strict interpretation of the law, but again I'd have done the same.

As to Bush and Kerry, we've come to a sad state of affairs when these two are the mainstream choices for President of the United States. Fortunately, there is an alternative. I'm voting Libertarian.

11:05 -
This from my friend Paul Jones. The reference to Eggs Benedict needs an explanation. Paul is a professor of organic chemistry at Wake Forest University. Classes just started, and he always does a practical demonstration to start his freshman organic course. This time, he made Eggs Benedict, which I presume he used to illustrate denaturing proteins.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Kerry/Bush
Date: Thu, 26 Aug 2004 10:45:33 -0400
From: Paul B. Jones
To: Robert Bruce Thompson

Agreed on the sad state of affairs.  It is interesting that Vietnam is again such a topic.  I've often read of the politicization of the war and its effects.  Its effects seem to be that every last thing - even things that shouldn't be - is now politicized.  Did this happen before Vietnam?  I have no idea; I'm sure it did to some extent.  However, I was just four when Saigon fell.

And I'm a long, long way from a combat veteran.  My grandfather did see action - the Battle of the Bulge in particular.  He went into the war hating Germans.  He came out hating officers.  I have no idea if this has significance in determining right and wrong in the Swift Boat saga or not, but I don't immediately think the commanders have it right.

I also think no one really knows for sure now and it is too easy for us to convince ourselves of what we want to be true.  Hence the reports in 1970 and the alternate version today.  Isn't there some saying about truth being the first casualty of war?

Wouldn't it be just dandy if they debated relevant issues with such force and conviction?

Anyway, class went well.  Eggs benedict all 'round.  Though I left a bit of a mess for the next class.  -Paul

Bush says Kerry isn't fit to be President of the US. Kerry says Bush isn't fit to be President of the US. We should listen to both of them, because they're both telling the truth.

11:20 -
Sigh. The wheels are coming off XP SP2 already...

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Another gaping hole in XP SP2
Date: Thu, 26 Aug 2004 07:30:05 -0700
From: Roland Dobbins
To: Jerry Pournelle, Robert Bruce Thompson

Face it, these guys are just incompetent:


No, that can't be, because every time I point out their latest folly I get tons of email from people telling me I'm just a Microsoft basher. I think even Jerry may think of me as anti-Microsoft, which I'm not.

I really wish I could continue to use Windows, because there are a lot of things about it I like, but as far as I'm concerned it's now in the "attractive nuisance" category. And let's not even talk about IE.

It's interesting, though, that when I say nasty things about Linux, I usually get helpful messages from people who tell me how to do what I need to do.

I've been living nearly 100% of the time in Xandros for more than a month now, and I'll never go back. Sure, there are things I miss about Windows, not least that I really wish I could run my astronomy software under Linux, but in my opinion Xandros is at least as good a desktop OS as Windows, and it's certainly orders of magnitude more secure.

I even convinced O'Reilly to accept draft manuscripts in OpenOffice.org format rather than Word 2000, so at this point I'm running almost zero Microsoft software.

I'd love to see Jerry do the same. A one- or two-month trial, running only Xandros and native Linux apps. He'd hate it for the first couple of weeks, but I'll bet that after a month or two he'd also decide never to go back to Microsoft.

13:42 -
More mail.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: Kerry/Bush
Date: Thu, 26 Aug 2004 12:24:43 -0400
From: Paul B. Jones
To: Robert Bruce Thompson

"This time, he made Eggs Benedict, which I presume he used to illustrate denaturing proteins."

Actually, the Eggs Benedict weren't "real" Eggs Benedict; I scrambled the eggs instead of poaching them.  And this doesn't only allow the demonstration of denaturing (and crosslinking, more in a minute) proteins.  The Hollandaise sauce illustrates the emulsifying properties of egg yolk (which allows eggs to be used as shampoo, in a pinch).  I nearly had it, too.  The sauce was perfect and then I added just a bit more butter and, wham!, layer separation in an instant.  Of course, I was doing it so that no one could see the sauce without my making an effort to show them and so they didn't see the perfect sauce.  Ah, well.  I salvaged it as best I could and the class didn't complain.  Because it was free, presumably; if I'd paid for that sauce, I'd have been angry.
With the egg whites I had left over, I demonstrated mechanical denaturing by whipping them up and I was able to show why you don't want yolks when you do so.  Also, this allows denaturing without crosslinking: foam instead of solidification.  All in all, eggs provide a great forum for organic chemistry.  Plus, they get breakfast.  I usually try to start out all fire and brimstone, but they're taking an 8am class already.  No need for drama.  -Paul

Amazing what you can do with an egg.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject:     Re your comment "I wasn't there."
Date:     Thu, 26 Aug 2004 08:52:18 -0700
From:     Mark Huth
To:     Robert Bruce Thompson <thompson@ttgnet.com>

As I noted in my message to you, Bill Rood, the author of the Chicago Tribune article, was there.  He was the other surviving Swift Boat commander on the day that Kerry was awarded his Silver Star and was wounded. It is very interesting to read his version...which strongly collaborates Kerry's version.  Further, interesting to read Roy Hoffman's memo of strong support for Kerry's actions that day, which is included.  Hoffman seems to be mis-remembering what he said at the time. A less charitable version is that Hoffman is deliberately lying.  You may find the Swift Boat vets version more credible, but it appears to be inaccurate according to the other Swift Boat commander on site and according to the copy of the memo written by Kerrys commanding officer at the time.
The point of the story about the 101 wasn't to suggest that shooting prisoners was a war crime, the point was that this kind of thing always happens in wars (see Abu Ghraib), that there is a difference between a war with full support of the politicians and one in which our troops are used for political purpose.  Kerry (and more than 1000 others) showed courage in his testimony in 1971, by taking issue with the conduct of that war.  I'd suggest that the lack of support of the politicians for our troops in this war strongly parallels that in Vietnam.
Finally, I can't vote Libertarian, I've got to make the choice between Bush and Kerry.  The Libertarians won't win this election, however desirable that might be.  A strong impetus for me is the desire not to have "free speech zones".  Cheney recently spoke in Medford, my hometown.  Two of our ICU nurses went to protest, both with signs which said "support our troops".  One of them has a son in Iraq.  They were placed in a cage surrounded by concertina wire and guarded by soldiers with rifles.  Sorry, that isn't a free speech zone,that is a cage surrounded by wire.  You and I can both speak outside of "free speech zones". 
I understand. I'll vote Libertarian because it's the right thing to do. I refuse to waste my vote on the lesser of two evils. You're obviously right that the Libertarians won't win this election, but if everyone uses that as the yardstick we're going to be stuck with the Republicrats and the likes of Bush/Kerry forever.

As to Bush's 1984-speak "free-speech zones", I agree. How did we come to this? But do you really think Kerry would be any better in that respect? I certainly don't. We're in a new world order, although few people seem to be aware of it. There was a revolution in the US after 9/11, and the Bill of Rights was the worst casualty. Heck, I've been harping on this since Day One. I'm the guy who invented the word Heimatsicherheitshauptamt and suggested promoting Ridge to Oberstgruppenführer. I fully expect the Gestapo to come for me one of these days.

Bush is terrible. Kerry is terrible. The point that few people seem to realize is that they're equally terrible, and in the same ways. Bush versus Kerry is a false dichotomy. If you choose one, you've chosen both. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss...

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: Kerry/Bush
Date: Thu, 26 Aug 2004 13:29:08 -0400
From: Paul B. Jones
To: Robert Bruce Thompson

Mary assures me it is possible to make paint with an egg, as well.

The last demo I did has nothing to do with Eggs Benedict; it is possible to dissolve the shell from around the egg, without destroying the egg.  You soak the egg in acetic acid for 48 hours and the shell dissolves, leaving a squishy egg-shaped thing.  Held up against a light, you can see its innards.  Fun stuff.

Yeah, it's called tempera. We used it in kindergarten. As to dissolving egg shells, you'd better watch out or PETA will get you.


Friday, 27 August 2004

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10:14 - The push continues, as it will through next Wednesday, to get the Wireless Networking chapter done and off to my editor.

I can't write all the time, and when I'm not writing I'm reading. Last night, I read Peter Robinson's latest Inspector Banks mystery, Playing with Fire. Robinson does his usual superb job. If you enjoy contemporary British police procedurals, check out the Inspector Banks series. You'll love them. Robinson's an excellent writer, and he's also an all-around nice guy.

I met Peter when Barbara and I attended the first Cape Fear Crime Festival in Wilmington, North Carolina three or four years ago. When Barbara and I signed up to attend, the application asked what we did for a living. Naturally, I wrote "author". When we arrived at the registration desk the first day to pick up our badges and literature packages, the lady at the registration desk found Barbara's right away. Mine was a problem.

As it turned out, they'd registered me as "Richard Thompson", and they'd given me a green "Author" badge rather than a white "Fan" badge. So, for the whole convention I wandered around with a green author badge with someone else's name on it. (My favorite incident was when one lady grabbed me and said, "Richard Thompson! I loved your book!" To which I responded, "Which one?")

At any rate, the convention was non-smoking, so I had to go out front to smoke my pipe. As it turned out, I met a lot of mystery authors that way, because many of them also smoke. For the 15 minutes or so between seminars, I'd sit out front talking with one or another mystery author. At one point, I was sitting there smoking with Sue Henry, who writes delightful mysteries set in Alaska. Sue suggested we  go in and get a Coke, so I accompanied her to the authors' lounge. There were several other authors already there, including Peter Robinson. We had an hour or so until the next seminar started, so I sat in the lounge at the conference table listening to the authors talk about what authors always talk about when we get together. Advances, royalties, agents, and publishers.

At one point, someone asked me what I wrote. I told them that I wrote computer books, and felt as though I shouldn't be in their lounge, despite my green badge. Peter offered me another Coke, and said I was welcome in the lounge any time. When I again said I wrote computer books rather than mysteries, he said, "Well, do they pay you for writing these computer books?" I agreed that they did. He then asked, "And what do they call someone who writes computer books?" "An author," I replied. He pointed up to the Authors' Lounge sign, and said, "Well, there you are, then."

As it turned out, the subsequent conversations were interesting for me and for the mystery authors. I wanted to know about advances, royalties, agents, and publishers in the mystery genre, and they wanted to know the same things about computer books. So I ended up spending most of my free time over the next three days in the authors' lounge, where I got to know a dozen or more mystery authors pretty well.

Speaking of mysteries, I'm currently reading Sarah Andrews' Em Hansen series. Sarah is a geologist, as is her character. The first book in the series, Tensleep, finds Em working as a mudlogger at a drilling site for a new oil well. If I hadn't known that Tensleep was a first novel, I'd never have believed it. Andrews' writing is polished and professional, even in this, her first novel.

A couple days ago, I finished her second novel, A Fall in Denver. Andrews, like all good authors, has a way with words, and delights in using them well.

Em has been offered a job as a geologist at a small oil company in Denver. On her first day, she's sitting in president Menken's office on the 12th floor being welcomed to her new job when a body plummets past the window. Em, of course, decides to investigate. A couple days later, she's telling Elyria, a friend she's living with until she can find her own apartment, about the incident. We start with Em:

    "Really? This guy was one of their accountants. Maybe he was
falling on his sword."
    "Or just celebrating the equinox," she said, dryly.
    I glanced at the date at the top of the page. She was right, it
was now September twenty-fourth, two days after the equinox.
In the confusion of starting the new job, I had forgotten to cele-
brate it myself. "What does jumping out of a window have to do
with celebrating the equinox?"
    "First day of fall, dear."
    "That's sick, Elyria."

Em has wondered all along why she was hired as a geologist to replace Bill--Elyria's late husband and Em's friend, who'd been murdered--when the industry is in contraction and better-qualified people are being laid off. The other employees have been treating Em as a pariah, and no one will tell her what's going on. President Hansen finally explains to her that he hired her not because of her qualifications as a geologist but because strange things were happening in the company and Em is so good at figuring things out.

    "My dear Emily, these are hard times. Jobs are at a premium.
I could have replaced Bill with any number of geologists who
are far more experienced than you."
    I itched to kick Menken's overtightened buttocks right up
between his supercilious ears. Fuck with my self-esteem, will you? I
thought, surprised to find that for the first time in my life I had
enough self-esteem to be fucked with. With which to be fucked, I
told myself, with the full dignity of my educational background.

14:33 - I've been using the Concord 5345Z digital camera to shoot images for the chapter, and I'm very pleased with it. Here's a very tight crop on an image I shot of a D-Link PCI WLAN adapter. The original image is 2560x1920, stored at the best available quality level. This crop shows 1% of the original image areally, or a 256x192 section. It comes from near the edge of the image, which any lens renders less sharply than the center.

Actually, the original image is even better. I cropped the original image using IrfanView running under Crossover Office. After I cropped the image and before I saved it, I clicked on the Options button in IrfanView, intending to set JPEG quality to 100%. Clicking the Options button did nothing, so I ended up saving this cropped version at the default 70% quality level. That additional compression cuts into fine detail.

In the original image, I can even see some detail in the connector traces that link the card to the PCI contacts shown at the bottom, as well as quite a bit of detail of the wear on the PCI connectors themselves (this card has been inserted and removed several times).

D-Link close-up

This Concord 5345Z is a very good 5MP digital camera, not just for its price, but period. I like it much better than the Olympus C-5000Z I had been using. The Concord doesn't have all the bells and whistles of the Olympus, but the Concord takes very good pictures and is much easier to use.

And more mail.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: UN open source
Date: Thu, 26 Aug 2004 22:09:05 -0500
From: Chris Christensen
To: Robert Bruce Thompson


Microsoft must be hoping that the UN will do for open source what it's done
for world peace:

and the greater flaw theory, as applied to security:

Heh. Thanks.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: more kde desktop
Date: Fri, 27 Aug 2004 11:06:29 +0200
From: Bo Leuf
To: Robert Bruce Thompson

The thought floated up in my mind, after pointing you to the unclutter-windows function, that you might appreciate a few of the other instance features of the KDE desktop that Windows users typically never think to look for.

One is configuring how the taskbar shows running instances and open windows. The MS taskbar just shows all opened window instances.

In KDE you have several stackable taskbar options (Control Center > Desktop > Taskbar): showing everything, showing only those on current virtual desktop, sorting by vd, grouping similar tasks (never, always, conditional), and showing only minimized.

With the alternatives of right-click vd-instance list (up arrow beside pager) or middle-button on free region of current, scroll-button vd shifts, and goodness-knows all else, things are fast and fluid even with a ridiculous number of opened apps and windows.

After a year of this kind of desktop management, going back to one of the Win2k desktops feels like strapping on a grip/release prosthetic claw, despite the handful of add-on applets I've lately set up on them to at least partially simulate what I'm used to.

It's strange, but I know lots of Windows users who use only a single full-screen window, no matter what. They context shift with shut-down/start-up app or minimize/maximize, but that's about it. Kind of pathetic really when they run in XVGA or better on a huge screen.

I don't know what themes and decorations you have in Xandros, but there's one in the current KDE distro called "B II" (Control Center > Appearance... > Window Decorations, main drop down list) that I like a lot.

The feature of B II is to make the title bar adaptive in width and placement. Can take getting used to, but two advantages I like are:

1. Stacked windows can show tabbed titlebars even when aligned so that normal full-width ones would be covered by the top one -- for instance, if the lot are maximized. Raising and lowering windows change tab placements to try and keep as many as possible visible.

2. Titlebar widgets are closer together (left-right). It's a small thing, and some decorations cluster (let you cluster) them regardless, but it's one I like when using touchpad.

Thanks. I'll try those when I get a spare moment.


Saturday, 28 August 2004

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09:25 - Still working heads-down on the chapter.

And a reply to Bo Leuf's comments on the advantages of the KDE interface.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: The Maelstom of Data
Date: Sat, 28 Aug 2004 08:58:25 +1000
From: Rob Megarrity
To: Robert Bruce Thompson


I'm not sure what planet Bo Leuf comes from, but he sure seems stuck at the "Interface Level"... Maybe Bo has several heads and many arms and lives in a maelstrom of data?

It's strange, but I know lots of Windows users who use only a single full-screen window, no matter what. They context shift with shut-down/start-up app or minimize/maximize, but that's about it. Kind of pathetic really when they run in XVGA or better on a huge screen.

Well, I sometimes have 2 or 3 apps on the task-bar, but since "Everything I Ever Wrote" is  a few of clicks away on the server, and any other app is available within seconds, my working environment could hardly be described as "pathetic". -Anyhow, it's all my aging brain can handle, and I can still only type into one app.

I confess that I usually work full-screen in Word or, lately, OpenOffice.org. Sometimes, though, I'll have two or three windows open and in use, for example the document I'm working on, an Intel PDF power supply specification, and a browser window. My real problem is that I consider my 19" monitor running 1280x1024 or 1600x1200 just large enough to display the primary document. If there's another window or windows open, I don't have enough screen real estate to display the primary document large enough for my taste. If I had, say, a 24" monitor running perhaps 2560x2048, I might use multiple windows more.


Sunday, 29 August 2004

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