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Week of 10 January 2005

Latest Update: Friday, 14 January 2005 09:27 -0400

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Monday, 10 January 2005

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09:59 - Most women are fickle when it comes to clothes. Most men, on the other hand, form deep and abiding friendships with their clothing. Until recently, I still had old friends from college, thirty years ago, that I still wore. I still have shoes, boots, shirts, and jeans that pre-date my marriage in 1983. Unlike Barbara, who thoughtlessly discards clothing merely because it has become worn, torn, or stained, I stand by my old buddies in sickness and in health.

Barbara, like most women, doesn't get nearly as attached to her clothing. She buys new clothes when she wants them, and then just starts wearing them. I, on the other hand, have to get used to the idea of wearing something new. The flip side of forming lasting relationships with my clothing is that it takes us a while to make friends.

For example, Barbara may buy me a new shirt or a pair of shoes. They sit in my closet for anything from a year to five years while I think about wearing them. Eventually, I do wear them, but I don't like to force the issue.

So, last night we were sitting in the den reading, and Barbara commented that one of my socks had a large hole in it. My natural reaction would have been to respond, "Yeah, so?", but having been married for 21 years I've learned some lessons. So I told Barbara that I'd turn that one into a toy for Malcolm (so long, old buddy...).

Barbara then asked me why I wasn't wearing the black socks she'd bought me a month or two ago. I posted an image of my sock and underpants drawer a few years back. I don't fold or sort socks and underpants. Life is too short. Instead, I wear all gray socks, which means I can just pile the socks and underpants in the drawer. When I get dressed, I can just pull out one pair of underpants and any two socks and I'm guaranteed they'll match.

Barbara wanted to know if I'd ended up yet wearing mismatched socks. I haven't, because I cunningly allocated the new black guys a separate corner of the drawer. But that brought up the new black New Balance tennis shoes she'd bought me a couple years ago. She wanted to know why I hadn't worn them. Oops. So this morning I'm wearing my new black tennis shoes with new black socks.

Catching up on mail...

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Wives...and computers
Date: Sun, 9 Jan 2005 21:33:12 -0800
From: Mark Huth
To: Robert Bruce Thompson
CC: Ted Weldon, Jerry Pournelle

On Thursday evening past, I was about to sit down to begin to read email when I heard  a whine from my computer and email program froze and then failed to load.  Hmmmm, I don't like whines.  So, I did what every red blooded proto-geek does...I ignored it.  Closed the email program and opened the rssreader....froze and whine increased in volume.

Shut down computer and reboot.  No boot, re-reboot...no boot.  re-re-reboot....black screen and no boot.  This isn't good.  Went to bed.

Spent the weekend enjoying sleepless nights on call, but tonight sat down to make it work.  Recovery console...nada....boot from CD....boots.  Boot from hard drive...loads bios screen, finds hard drives, brings up windows XP screen for just under a nanosecond.  Funky hard drive?  Gremlins,

Hmmmm....needs to visit the mighty TED....

Lugged it up the steps to the garage.

Evil Wife sitting on sofa watching TV says "Can't fix it yourself, going to take it to its Uncle Ted, it likes being with Ted".  I say somewhat proudly "This computer has never even met Ted".

Evil Wife "It probably talked to all the other computers in the house and they told it how wonderful it is in Ted's office."


See if I ever fix her computer again!


Space isn't remote at all.  It's only an hour's drive away...Fred Hoyle

Hmmm. Could be a Windows problem. Have you considered migrating to Linux?

If you force me to be serious, I'd guess the hard drive is failing.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: MS-Office, Macros etc.
Date: Thu, 6 Jan 2005 07:05:10 +1000
From: Megarrity
To: Robert Bruce Thompson


I've had a fair bit of experience with all versions of MS-Office and can report that (for most users) there is no practical difference in features since Office 97 SR2. Along the way there were a few bizarre installation options, such as the default option not being a full installation, and many end-users didn't understand this. (Presumably this was to save HD space -at a time when most computers had vast amounts of spare HD space). The default "Partial Menu" option and the MS-Office Assistant are just plain silly. (Of course, versions since 2000 have to be registered!)

If users write lengthy macros, they just aren't using the applications correctly. I once saw a user who had spent weeks writing a macro to produce "Standard Documents"; he went very quiet after I showed him about Templates and Styles! Similarly, one crowd of jokers was pushing an MS-Word add-on which would "Reveal Codes" in complex MS-Word documents; it was clear that they didn't understand what it was all about.

I note your dislike of WikiPedia. -But sometimes it's useful to know the "conventional wisdom" on a particular topic. e.g. It's worth reading popular computer magazines to find out what the consumers are thinking, even if this has little connection with reality.

Interested in your reports of browser preferences for your site. Any drop-off in total hits since you are no longer a Windows Shop?

I don't use macros, so I don't really have an opinion. Many of my readers who do use macros have reported various things breaking when they upgraded from Office 97 to Office 2000 to Office XP, though.

As far as site traffic, it's been trending upward rather than declining.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: nic chipset hell
Date: Thu, 6 Jan 2005 01:19:00 -0000 (UTC)
From: Bo Leuf
To: Robert Bruce Thompson

Getting somewhat frustrated here trying to obtain Linux-compatible NICs. Most cards I find turn out to be based on one or another Realtek (or worse) chipset, and lack official Linux drivers ("support for major OS" be damned, just means flavors of MS Windows when it comes down to it).

Most recently, I purchased on recommendation Netgear cards. As the company produces Linux-based routers and brags full OS support, one assumes that includes Linux. Nope. It did not. MS-Windows only. For cost reasons, apparently, even the Gigabit cards use crappy Realtek chipsets.

Hack software is sort of available for some chipsets but are not really stable -- besides, the Realtek chips simply choke when pushed above typical MS Windows half-speed maximums for their 10 or 100 Mbit/s rates.

More to the point, chipset hacks don't at all support the gigabit cards now current. Only 10/100, and then only to the 80% or so that the hardware allows before it chokes.

Several suppliers I've tried for Intel Pro or D-Link, known to provide vendor drivers for Linux, never have them in stock -- too expensive (>$60, no demand.

Sure hope this changes as Linux becomes more common. As it is, I've been burned by a handful of different NICs that are unusable in the Linux servers I was going to put them in.

Other than embedded LAN adapters, we use nothing around here except Intel and D-Link network components. I'm surprised that D-Link sells at such a large premium relative to NetGear in Sweden. In the US, D-Link, NetGear, and LinkSys compete in pretty much the same price range. If D-Link sells at a slight premium, that's understandable, because they're one of the few networking companies left that actually designs and manufactures most of their own products. Most of the others buy OEM mainland Chinese stuff and slap their labels on it.

I've found I much prefer the D-Link products to similar NetGear and LinkSys products, so I'm using D-Link stuff pretty much exclusively in our production network. As you say, the D-Link stuff pretty much just works with Linux, as well as with Windows.


Tuesday, 11 January 2005

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09:45 - In addition to everything else, I just started a two-part article for WindowsDevCenter yesterday, entitled Building the Perfect PC: Quality on a Budget. As usual, Part I will cover choosing components and Part II will cover building the system. The focus will be on building an inexpensive PC with minimum compromises in reliability, performance, and noise level. I'll post the draft manuscript for subscribers as soon as I finish it.

15:15 - Apple has introduced its new low-end system.

I'm underwhelmed. That's not much system for the money. It looks like that little AMD box that sells for $199. If Apple had priced it at $199, I might buy one. But not for $500. A slow processor, only 256 MB of RAM, slow video, a read-only optical drive, and no expandability. What more could they have done to cost-reduce it? I'd guess they'll have a higher margin percentage on those systems than on their mainstream Macs.

The $350 budget systems I'm currently building will simply blow the doors off this pathetic little box.


Wednesday, 12 January 2005

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08:20 - Bad night last night. I was awakened about 3:00 a.m. by the sound of little girls singing and laughing outside our bedroom window. I got up and looked out but didn't see anything, so I went back to bed. A few minutes later, I was again awakened by the sound of little girls singing and laughing outside the bedroom window, so I got up and checked again. Nothing. Barbara and the dogs were still asleep, so I immediately suspected something strange was going on.

So I went to the closet and pulled out the anti-monster gun, a full-auto Atchison 12-gauge shotgun. I checked to make sure the drum magazine was fully loaded with 25 rounds of Brenneke rifled slugs, and then sneaked down the hall to the front door. I whipped open the front door, and sure enough there was a hideous monster lurking just outside our bedroom window. It snarled at me, so I hosed it down with the Atchison, chopping it into hamburger, and then went back to bed. Barbara and dogs had slept through it all, including the roar of the Atchison and the screams of the monster.

When I took the dogs out this morning to get the paper, the body of the monster was gone. I figure his buddies must have carried him off during the night. They were also kind enough to police up all the empty 12-gauge shells.

10:55 - Very sad news from the wife of Brian Cheesman, who was one of the first people to start reading my journal.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: From a loyal reader...
Date: Wed, 12 Jan 2005 2:36:54 -0500
From: Laurie
To: Robert Bruce Thompson

Dear Mr. Thompson,

Actually, I am not the loyal reader, but my husband was.  I am the wife of Brian Cheesman, I've actually just spent a couple of hours reading through your message board.  I can see why he was entertained there.

At any rate, I'm writing with tragic news.  I know that Brian would want you to know - if for no other reason than the untouched copy of the Building A Perfect PC upstairs - he was waiting until he could devote concentration & time to reading it.  I also know he was anxiously awaiting the book and excited when he finally received it.

Brian fell ill on the 11th or 12th of October.  It took many trips to many doctors and many emergency rooms before we were finally able to get Brian the attention he required.  On Nov. 18 he was diagnosed with a severe case of ulcerative colitis.  At which point he weighed slightly under 120 pounds, never a heavy man by any stretch, at 120 he was down 40 pounds at that point, the weight loss occured in just a few weeks.  The doctors tried to treat his colitis with drugs but unfortunately it wasn't responding and we were transfered into a major city to a bigger hospital on December 1st.  Finally, on December 14 Brian was the recipient of a subtotal coloectomy, supposedly the cure for the colitis (and I'm sure it did cure the colitis).  He seemed to be doing quite well and was really working hard through his recovery period so that he could return home to his family.  He was discharged on the 21st of December. 

He was home for a total of 4 hours before we had to call 911 and have him ambulanced back to the community hospital.  He just collapsed in the bathroom, for reasons (still) unknown to me at the time. 

Brian passed away on December 22/04 at approx 1:40 am (I'm not sure of the exact time of death and it really doesn't matter except that he died some 12 hours after returning home from a 34-day hospital stay).

While I realize you never met my husband, I know he read and posted on your site - I know your site was important to him.  I've read some of what he posted there, its nice to read - when I read those words I know he was happy with his life.

So, I have the t-shirt (which is actually the last thing he wore - I had it out for him when he got home, he even commented on it when I helped him change that afternoon) and the book.  If you don't mind, at somepoint I'd like to read through the book, unfortunately I won't be able to offer the 'editoral skills' that Brian would have, nor will I likely be able to offer technical advice, but that book seemed pretty important to Brian and I'd just like the opportunity to read something he would've enjoyed.

Wishing you health & peace,
Laurie Beckstead-Cheesman

I am so sorry to hear this tragic news, but thank you for letting me know.

Brian was one of my earliest readers. I exchanged many emails with him over the years, discussing topics from the profound to the ridiculous. I often laughed out loud when I read his quirky responses to something I'd written. He was particularly quick to respond to typos with humorous comments. (See, for example, <http://www.ttgnet.com/daynotes/2004/2004-22.html#Thursday>). I will miss him.

If you don't mind, I'd like to post your message on my journal page. I know that many of my other readers would want to know.

I'm copying Jerry Pournelle, because I know that Brian also corresponded with him frequently.

With my deepest condolences.


-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: Re: From a loyal reader...
Date: Wed, 12 Jan 2005 9:51:04 -0500
From: Laurie
To: Robert Bruce Thompson

Dear Bob,

By all means, please post my message.  Your exchange of emails with Brian describes his personality - profound yet quirky.  It was for that reason that I fell in love and stayed in love with him.  He was always telling me about the escapades of your dogs - particularly when one of our herd would pull some stunt.  Your message board and your blog were a part of his day.

Yes, he was forever 'editing' me too - in fact, at times, it led to strife in our relationship. 

Thank you for letting Jerry Pournelle know too, I know Brian frequented there as well.

Tragic?  Most definitely.  I think the shock is beginning to wear off, he was supposed to be home and on the road to recovery, instead I've lost my best friend, my partner-in-crime, my soulmate (which is a word he'd never normally have used, but did in the hospital at one point over his stay there).

I'm glad to read his comments - it erases some of the memories of his last months and serves to remind me that he truly was happy with his life.

-Laurie Beckstead-Cheesman


Thursday, 13 January 2005

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08:22 - Several people have asked me to convey their condolences to Laurie Beckstead-Cheesman. I apologize for removing her email address when I posted her messages. I remove email addresses automatically nowadays, and didn't even think about it. If you want to contact Laurie directly, you can send her email at

Laurie Beckstead-Cheesman <becksted#sympatico:ca>

with the appropriate substitutions.

We're in the home stretch now for PC Hardware Buyer's Guide: Choosing the Perfect Components. O'Reilly sent me the QC2 PDF galley proofs yesterday, and I spent several hours going through them looking for errors. Subscribers can download the uncorrected proofs via the Subscribers' Page.


Friday, 14 January 2005

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08:20 - I'm still working on the two-part article for WindowsDevCenter, Building the Perfect PC: Quality on a Budget. I'm spec'ing out two budget systems, one AMD and one Intel. I'd planned to build the AMD system this weekend, but I don't have the case yet. Well, actually I do have an Antec SLK2600AMB, which is the base case I'm recommending, but I also recommend spending an extra $10 or so to upgrade that to the Antec SLK2650BQE. That extra $10 buys you TAC-compliance, a larger power supply, and a standard 120mm case fan (versus no case fan in the SLK2600AMB). I don't have an SLK2650BQE in stock, but Antec is sending me a couple.

The goal is to configure a complete system--including monitor, keyboard, mouse, and speakers--from high-quality components on a $500 budget. That turns out to be easier than I thought it would be.

Although I'm configuring AMD and Intel models, I'll actually build only the AMD model. That's because I don't have any concerns about the Intel model running Windows XP or Linux. I've run XP and Linux before on the Intel D865GBF motherboard without any problems, and I'm not making any great departures for the budget Intel configuration. The AMD configuration uses an ASUS A7N8X-VM/400 motherboard, and I want to make sure that all of its embedded components work properly under Linux.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Windows User
Date: Fri, 14 Jan 2005 11:47:30 +0000
From: Scott
To: Robert Bruce Thompson

Now THAT'S a disgruntled Windows user!


Disgrunted Windows Users

Building RV-4
Gotta Fly or Gonna Die

09:27 - This from subscriber Joe Tobin.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: CC Subscriber
Date: Thu, 13 Jan 2005 16:15:58 -0500
From: Joseph Tobin
To: Robert Bruce Thompson

Renew my subscription.  Thanks for your daily postings.  Your comments about how you dealt with your mother in her time of need have stayed with me.  I am taking care of my mom and dad (84 & 87) as well as a 7yr old.  Your writing touches lives.

Thank you,

Joe Tobin 

You're fortunate to have your parents with you. My parents moved to North Carolina in 1977, and I followed them down here in 1980. That was the best decision I ever made. After my dad died in 1990, we moved my mom in with us. I saw her every day until her death in August 2003.

Periodically, someone would comment about how inconvenient it must be to take care of mom. I told them, sure it was inconvenient at times. If Barbara and I wanted to leave town, it was like planning the Normandy invasion. But it was inconvenient for my mom to take care of me when I was young, too. Taking care of her when she was old was just the other side of the coin. And I'd no more have given up caring for her when she was old than she would have given up caring for me when I was young.

I often talk to people who've only seen their parents once or twice a year, if that, for twenty years or more. I wonder how they deal with the loss of their parents. Perhaps it's easier for them that way. It would have been harder for me.


Saturday, 15 January 2005

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Sunday, 16 January 2005

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